What is the Value of a College Education to Working Adults?
By Guy Williams
Alumnus at American Public University
What is the value of a college education, especially to working adults? I asked myself this question several times and heard the same question echoed by my peers, students, faculty members, politicians, newscasters, and several prospective employers.
Then there are deeper questions around topics such as whether there is a way to quantify the value of a college education or whether traditional brick and mortar school degrees carry more weight than online schools. While the list of questions appears endless, I believe a few truisms exist about college degrees earned at any age.
A Degree Represents Significant Effort
Perhaps the greatest truth I discovered about college degrees and education in general centers on the effort students make in both time and energy. Regardless of which university a student enrolls in or the educator that students learn from, the energy invested in studies equals greater rewards. Personal satisfaction, subject matter expertise, fellowship, and a sense of accomplishment are all examples of rewards that students gain during the process of earning a degree.
Noted businessperson and software designer Bill Gates stated, “What’s amazing is, if young people understood how doing well in school makes the rest of their life so much more interesting, they would be more motivated. It’s so far away in time that they can’t appreciate what it means for their whole life.” Working hard at your studies applies to students of all ages.
A Degree Is a Universal Baseline
The second truism I learned about college education is that a college degree is a universal baseline that potential employers use to filter through job applicants. A college degree displays to employers that potential employees possess basic research skills, a sense of resolve, and a desire for self-improvement.
While education and experience complement each other when seeking a job, a college education bridges the lack of experience gap young job applicants’ face when entering the work force or changing career fields.
[Related: Back to the Grind]
Learning to Be an Agent of Change
Learning to become an agent of change is one of the most far-reaching truisms of a college education. The concept of civic virtue or giving back to society is a very real and tangible effect of a college education.
President John F. Kennedy stated, “Let us think of education as the means of developing our greatest abilities, because in each of us there is a private dream which, fulfilled can be translated into benefit for everyone and greater strength for our nation.”
While each student’s actions may not gain the notoriety of changing the course of a nation, who knows what effects a student’s education may bring about some day. Each action is akin to a pebble cast into a pond that ripples out and those waves may have a profound effect upon a few or many people.
By pursuing a college education at any age, a student lights a fire of knowledge that grows in intensity as they learn more.
The Cost of Not Getting a Degree
I do not think a consensus will ever exist about the exact value or even the units of measurement when attempting to determine the worth of a college education. However, I believe the cost is far greater to those who do not pursue a college degree because of the unrealized potential. How many Albert Einsteins, Martin Luther Kings, and Marie Curies have we lost as a society because we did not value a college degree?
It is never too late to commit to earning your first or another college degree. Then you can explore your own answers to the question of the value of higher education.
This article originally appeared on our fellow APUS blog, Online Career Tips.
About the Author
Guy Williams is an alumnus at American Public University and earned a MA in History with a concentration in ancient and classical history. Guy retired from the US Army with over twenty-one years of service as an Airborne Ranger and currently works for the Department of Defense as a contractor in the position of Deputy Program Manager.