Is Higher Education Worth the Cost?


The common refrain that youngsters hear about college is that they need a degree to find a good job. While that’s not entirely true, the data is clear: people with college degrees tend to make more money in their lifetimes than people without them. However, the rising costs of tuition have led to an uptick in people claiming that college is looking more and more like a rip-off.

So, what’s the truth? Is a higher education something you need in order to be successful or are college tuition fees actually an elaborate scam? Let’s take a closer look.

Measures Taken to Make College Affordable Seem to Have Backfired

Economists like Richard Vedder have suggested that measures taken by the government to try to make higher education more affordable might have backfired tremendously. Vedder contends that the Higher Education Act of 1965 began a trend of increased government spending on college. College tuition boards, in response, wanted to get more slices of that “free” government money, and so they artificially inflated tuition to take down more grant and loan money.

Vedder concludes, succinctly, “The colleges are ripping students off because the federal government allows them to do it.”

Vedder diagnoses the problem as beginning and ending with administrative staff, who are the main beneficiaries of the swollen tuition costs of US universities. So, what can a student do?

Are Trade Schools Better?

Many students who would benefit more from learning a trade, like welding or plumbing, get talked into attending college instead. Social pressures, such as “gaining the experience” of college education, often pressure students into making decisions that aren’t as financially sound as they seem.

Some college degrees are simply required for students to qualify for certain fields. Doctors, lawyers, accountants, programmers, and other similar positions can’t be held by someone who doesn’t have the right degree. In these cases, college can hardly be said to be a “rip-off” or a scam.

When College Doesn’t Make Sense

However, students who are considering a degree in a field that isn’t easy to transfer into a competitive job field could be signing away their futures. Taking considerable loans to get a degree in painting might be enriching in the short term, but art grads might have a hard time finding a job that lets them pay back their loans.

In these cases, the student would often be better pursuing their field without the weight of college loans on them. So, is college a scam? No, not exactly. But it’s certainly not for everyone.