It is frequently discussed whether the expense of college is worth it. Does it pay to have a degree? If it does pay then how much does it pay? What courses and degrees pay more than others? What degrees never pay for themselves?
These are questions that more and more students grapple with as they leave college with increasingly more expensive college educations, and increasingly higher student loans to pay off. Certainly the loans have to be paid and hopefully they will be paid with the help of the degree they paid for. But what else is college good for? What are the other benefits that are seldom discussed?
College is a passage to a new life. Especially in families where parents never had the opportunity to go to college, then the education can transform a person’s life and catapult them to new experiences and new places.
For many students it is the first time they have been away from home. It is the first time they have been out from the direct influence of their parents and had to fend for themselves, maybe not financially, but socially. They had to take the awkward person they were in high school and stand on their own, making their own friends, and admitting their own mistakes. But it is also more then the transition to adulthood. It can be the transition to a new world.
Education through high school has remained relatively constant for dozens of years. The introduction of new math was, after all, still math and K through 12th grade education remains largely an exercise in getting students to understand the fundamentals of reading, writing, and arithmetic (or new math). But college is the time to explore. What do you want to do for the rest of your life? How do you want to live that life? What interests do you want to pursue? All these questions begin to be answered in college.
Without college a high school graduate, or a high school dropout, moves right into the workforce. They take whatever job comes their way. And they never have that opportunity to reflect on what they want to do or where they want to go with their life.
Not knowing any other life they often follow in their parents footsteps working in the family business or pursuing the same career their fathers or mothers had. Small neighborhood stores and businesses are often run by the family. In major metropolitan cities you can frequently find fathers and sons working in police and fire departments. College breaks this cycle and offers a broader outlook on life than a person would otherwise have.