The Value of Higher Education Has Changed in the Past 20 Years

Courtesy of Loyola University ChicagoOver the past 20 years, the value of higher education in the professional world has changed and a college degree is not universally necessary. Statistics show that the rate of growth for higher education enrollment is actually slowing.

It’s no secret the higher education system has changed over the course of the past 20 years. Increased tuition, online classes and specific study areas are just a few examples of change in colleges nationwide. What your diploma can do for you has also changed. 

The stigma of lacking a college degree has changed. People are becoming more okay with not having a bachelor’s degree or any formal education after high school. 

Although the enrollment at post-secondary institutions is increasing, there has been a decline in its percent of growth. There was a 19 percent increase in enrollment at institutions from 2006 to 2010 but this percentage fell by 7 percent from 2010 to 2016, according to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES).

The statistics show more people feel it’s unnecessary to obtain a college education and they aren’t wrong. The lower enrollment growth rate could be due to increased cost to attend a university, such as the increase in tuition Loyola will have from 2018 to 2020, according to a report by The Phoenix. However, the rise in a higher education price tag hasn’t stopped many students from continuing their studies.

Courtesy of Loyola University of Chicago Commencements for Loyola graduates take place this May for all schools within the university.

Despite Loyola’s high tuition cost, the university’s first to second year retention rate of 83 percent is well above the national average of 68 percent, according to the college data site College Factual.

If the rising cost of tuition isn’t deterring students from getting a degree, then what if it’s the degree itself? 

A bachelor’s degree just doesn’t seem to impress as much as it did 20 years ago. Instead, there has been an over-saturation of college graduates in the job market, leaving 35.3 percent of people in the workforce overqualified for their position, according to a Forbes article written by Christopher Matgouranis and Jonathon Robe titled, “Is America Saturated with College Grads?” This means there’s a significant number of Americans with college degrees working jobs which only require a high school diploma or less.

From 1992 to 2010, there was only a 2 percent increase in jobs  requiring a bachelor’s degree, according to a study by the Georgetown Policy Institute. Meanwhile, the national college enrollment increased by 45 percent from 2000 to 2010 but then decreased 7 percent from 2010 to 2016, according to NCES.

This should have people question whether they truly need a bachelor’s degree in the area of study they want to pursue.

Areas such as programming and skilled labor jobs like signal and track switch repairers — which make a median annual wage of about $70,000  — don’t require a college degree, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics 

Elon Musk — co-founder  of electric car manufacturer Tesla — recently tweeted asking for programmers to join his artificial intelligence team at Tesla.

“Educational background is irrelevant, but all must pass [a] hardcore coding test,” Musk tweeted. 

This is why people thinking about attaining a college education should put more thought into what’s needed to have their desired job or income. It’s also why students shouldn’t feel pressured to enroll in a university and accumulate loan debt.

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