As the parent of a recent college graduate, I know first-hand how expensive a college education is these days. Tuition and fees are rising faster than family incomes. More students are being forced to borrow to pay for their education and are graduating with more debt. And yet, statistics seem to confirm the only thing worse than graduating with college debt is not graduating from college at all.
It is estimated that by 2020, more than 65 percent of jobs available will require post-high school education; and that number rises to as much as 90 percent in the fastest growing industries. Workers with a bachelor’s degree earn a whopping 74 percent more on average than those with a high school diploma alone. So while the hard truth is that the cost of college can be daunting, the facts are that a college degree pays.
In my career to date, I have worked in four different industries. Statistics show that over the course of a working lifetime, the average worker will have seven different jobs. Ten years into my career, I went back to school at night to get an MBA in order to stay competitive. Versatility and a broad set of skills are required in today’s job market. Competition is fierce. Technological advancements and the globalization of the economy have accelerated the pace of change in which jobs come and go and skills can rapidly become obsolete. Workers cannot afford to be complacent about the education and training they need to stay competitive.
That is why I believe our goal should be lifelong learning. We should assume that we will never finish acquiring the knowledge and skills we need to be competitive and to have fulfilling careers and lives. And apart from the financial and competitive benefits, lifelong learning has the benefit of broadening the mind, opening the door to a wider range of possibilities, and expanding horizons.
The good news is that along the path of postsecondary education there are many byways. There is no one best route. For example, given the expense of college, many students choose to receive an associate degree at a community college and then move to a university to attain their bachelor’s degree. Others choose to attend public university over a private school. And college is not for everyone. Some choose vocational or technical certificates or degrees instead of associate or bachelor’s degrees. There are pros and cons to every choice, but one thing is certain—pursuing postsecondary education is not an option; it is a requirement for life success.