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Is college worth it?

Of the approximately 242 students who graduated from Pickens High School two weeks ago, administrators say around 60 percent will go on to some form of higher education. The question recently posed in a national poll by a nonpartisan group is, “Is college worth it?” In our view, the answer is a resounding, “Yes”.

The Pew Research Center’s national survey conducted this spring found the majority of Americans believe college is too expensive for most Americans to afford. Yet they agree it is a great way to teach work-related skills and knowledge, at the same time helping students grow personally and intellectually. Costs for college continue to rise. More and more kids graduate with mountains of school-related debt. But we still believe the benefits of college far outweigh its costs.

Locally, according to PHS administrators, 40 percent of this year’s seniors plan to study at a four-year college while another 20 percent plan to learn at a two-year or technical college. Those percentages have held static the past several years, administrators say. By those numbers, some 141 students from Pickens County go forward into some form of higher education each year.

Still, in the recently released poll, the majority of Americans say the higher education system in this country fails to provide students with a good value for the money they and their families spend. That said, an overwhelming majority of college graduates (86 percent of them to be precise) say college was a good investment for them personally. Seventy-four percent of those people who graduated with a four-year degree say their college education was “very useful” in helping them grow intellectually. Sixty-nine percent say it was very useful in helping them grow and mature as a person, and 55 percent say it was very useful in helping them prepare for a job or career.

Aside from learning to live on their own, preparing for a future career, and growing intellectually, college graduates have more earning power than their non-post-secondary educated peers. And that’s a good way to pay off the debt incurred from tuition. According to a report issued in 2010 by the U.S. Census Bureau, the median gap in annual earning between a high school and college graduate is $19,550, varying somewhat, depending on the type of degree and field of study.

Despite 94 percent of all parents surveyed saying they expect their child to attend college, most young adults in this country still do not attend a four-year college. And it all comes down to money. Two-thirds of adults ages 18-34 who are not in school and do not have a bachelor’s degree say a major reason for not continuing their education is the need to support a family. Over half say they prefer to work and make money. Just under half say they can’t afford tuition.

To this we say, “Where there’s a will there’s a way.” Numerous moving accounts record the story of the poor kid from the inner city or rural area overcoming all obstacles to get that degree, often times performing better academically than the kid with all advantages, simply because they wanted it more and earned it the old-fashioned way. Such people inspire us, make us recognize we can overcome circumstances to achieve better things in our lives. Be that person, Pickens High graduate. Be what you want to be. College can help you get there.

Remember to look at the big picture not short-term wants.


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