According to a recent poll from The Wall Street Journal and the National Opinion Research Center, people in the U.S. are starting to doubt the value of completing college.
- The huge amount of debt students may face post-graduation
- The fact that most college degrees don’t give students real job skills and
- The increasing number of companies and state governments that are accepting applicants with relevant experience in lieu of the almighty four-year degree
As a result, 56 percent of respondents agreed that a college degree wasn’t worth the cost. That’s a leap of 16 percentage points since the same question was asked in 2016.
Only 42 percent of those queried agreed that a “four-year college education is worth the cost because people have a better chance to get a good job and earn more income over their lifetime,” down 11 percentage points since 2013.
The report suggests 60 percent of young adults aged 18-34 are increasingly skeptical of the value of a college education versus its cost. And while that stat is virtually unchanged since 2017, views of college shockingly dropped among Americans aged 50 or older in that time. In fact, even for those 65 and older, Americans’ perception of a college degree’s value dropped 12 percentage points—from 56 percent to 44 percent in six years.
“It’s time to debunk the fiction that a prestigious degree is the only key to the American dream,” former Gov. Larry Hogan of Maryland wrote in an October 2022 Wall Street Journal op-ed.
Interestingly, the gender divide on this issue is slowly disappearing. Although women are still more likely to agree that a college degree is worth it, the rate of women holding this opinion has decreased by 10% since 2017.
The findings weren’t entirely unexpected. The number of recent high school graduates attending college has shown a downward trend in the past few years, with a drastic 3.5% dip from 2019 to 2020, the most significant decrease in 30 years.
Conversely, apprenticeship programs have seen a remarkable surge in recent years due to their ability to provide participants with valuable, applicable skills without sacrificing the cost of a traditional college education.
Make no mistake about it: One’s earning potential and marketability in the workplace surely increase by having a four-year degree, but that piece of paper may not be the gold standard it once was.
As someone who graduated from a four-year institution in the 1990s, the college model is as flawed and outdated today as it was back then. Who needs to take all these frivolous elective courses when you know you won’t use any of what you’ve learned in your career? For me, classes like French, Biology, Music, and Poetry were a waste of many hundreds of study and homework hours.
Are we headed in the right direction or should steps be taken to make college a more appealing prospect?