The question if college education has a value or purpose is rather a paradox. Answering this question depends on the dimension or perspective one takes in approaching this issue. On one hand, college education seems to lack any economic value but on the other, it seems to be the driving force of the country’s economy.
The public sector is the major provider of education in the United States of America (USA). Funding for this education is accrued from the local government, the state and the federal government. Colleges in the USA are categorized as higher education institutions (Shapiro 78). There are community colleges, liberal arts colleges, private and public universities.
The federal government as well as American citizens have recently put college education and thorough and close scrutiny to determine its real value and purpose to individuals and to the country’s economy as whole. America has the best higher education in the entire world. Shangai Jiao Tong University’s survey reported that of 30 American universities were among the 45 best universities in the world. This indicates just how the USA values its education system.
But does college education has any purpose or value? The argument arises of the fact that the cost incurred to attain a college degree is rather too high as compare to the opportunities available for well paying careers (Freeman 14). There are very many unemployed graduates in America at the moment. According to a survey carried out and reported by CNBC, 53% of all college graduates are either unemployed or underemployed. This is compounded by the fact that this percentage comprise of young adults who are 25 years and below. Most of these graduates end up doing jobs that are only suited for high school graduates. This is despite having incurred huge amounts of debts in college fees. The American corporate sector has totally failed in creating more jobs for the ever increasing number of college graduates. Many individuals have thus lost faith with college education despite the numerous promises of well paying careers that never materialize.
Studies show that college graduates are ending up working in low income jobs that do not even require high school education. College graduates keep on applying unsuccessfully for jobs. Most employers claim that they need individuals with practical experience which is logically not possible for a graduate to have (Smith 34). Graduates are often advised to try and acquire higher qualifications yet they still end up without jobs and accumulate more debt. Total student debt at the moment has surpassed one trillion dollars.
Considering this setbacks, many individuals have began discrediting the need to go to college and prefer to get into the low paying jobs right after high school. They argue that there is no point of wasting four years and getting into debt only for one to end up in a job that one could have began right from high school (Smith 68). Considering these setbacks preventing college graduates from getting high paying and sustainable education, college education thus seems to lack any economic value or purpose.
But there is need for the American public to acquire college education if at all the corporate sector is to grow or if at all America wants to sustain its edge as the leading economy in the world. Problems arise when individuals begin viewing college education in monetary terms. Though expectations of many individuals are that they acquire lucrative careers after graduating from college, there is more to college education rather than just ending up in a lucrative career.
For any society to grow, it requires intelligent people to propel it to the desired level of growth. This cannot be achieved by apprenticeship only but by active learning as is the case in colleges. Colleges are essentially meant to test as well as develop an individual’s intelligence of a prolonged duration (Damian 56). Colleges therefore are not to be seen as institutions where academic materials are regurgitated to produce working machines into the economy. They should be viewed instead as institutions where an individual is molded into an all rounded person who is able to create opportunities rather than just fill the already available ones. This is a purpose which is inevitable and cannot be discarded if a society and the country as a whole is to continue moving in the positive direction towards prosperity.
The problem though is that most of the institutions acting as colleges today do not subscribe t this school of thought that there is more than just financial reward of a college degree (Shapiro 89). The teachers or lecturers are supposed to be on the forefront in advocating for this school of thought if at all they look forward to producing logical, analytical and innovative graduates. The purpose of a college education is thus to train individuals to create opportunities as well as solve the current problems rather than just concentrating on being employed and earning money. This is why there are diverse disciplines in colleges some of which do not have a direct definition to their career paths. But despite this, if the stakeholders take college education with right perspective in mind, then the there would be no graduates lamenting about lack of jobs but instead the country would have a shortage of personnel to employ due to the opportunities created.
Comparing these two approaches to understanding the value and purpose of college education, then the latter is more credible than the former. College is indeed valuable and has a significant purpose if the right mechanisms are adhered to.
Damian, Radu. Higher Education for Modern Societies: Competencies and Values. Strasbourg: Council of Europe, 2010. Print.
Freeman, Richard Barry. The Declining Economic Value of Higher Education and the American Social System. Washington D.C: Aspen Institute for Humanistic Studies, 1976. Print.
Shapiro, Harold. A larger Sense of Purpose: Higher Education and Society. New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 2008. Print.
Smith, Charles. Market Values in American Higher Education: The Pitfalls and Promises. Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield, 2000. Print.