An emerging consensus says a four-year college degree yields too much student-loan debt and too few job prospects.
The numbers suggest that is true. In 2012, the average student-loan debt was $29,000, according to the Institute for College Access & Success. That same year, 53 percent of recent college graduates were either jobless or working in a job that didn’t require a college degree, according to a story by the Associated Press.
So why do I want my daughter to attend a four-year school?
For starters, while my daughter will likely graduate with substantial student-loan debt, her job prospects are good. She plans to become a teacher, like her mom, and according to a study out of Georgetown University, the jobless rate among elementary education majors is just 5 percent. By comparison, the jobless rate for newly minted architects is 13.9 percent; it’s 11 percent for recent college grads who majored in the arts.
But the value of college goes beyond the classroom education and its job respects. In college, my daughter will be truly independent – away from her parents 24/7 – so mom and dad won’t be there to make sure she gets out of bed, goes to school, does her homework, studies for tests. She will manage her money, wash her clothes, choose her meals on her own. She will do all of these things – she will be responsible – or she will flunk out of school broke and wearing dirty clothes.
In college, my daughter will meet a diverse group of people. They will come from other states, other countries, other cultures. They will have other faiths, other political views, other interests. Some of these people might become lifelong friends; all will broaden her horizons.
In college, my daughter will have the chance to explore more than the classroom. The college she plans to attend has more than 170 student organizations, many devoted to academic interests but also to advocacy and awareness, community service, politics, spiritual life, club sports and more.
I hope my daughter easily finds a job when she graduates from college. But if she doesn’t, she will better for the experience, because college is more than job training. College is about opening ourselves to the bigger world around us. And it’s hard to put a price on that.