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The Value of a College Education

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The Value of a College Education

GEN 300 Skills for Professional Development

November 5, 2005

The Value of a College Education

In the game of chess, points are given to each individual piece to help identify its value to the player in assisting his goal to capture the opposing king. The pawn is worth one point, the knights and bishops are each worth three points, the rook is worth five, and the most valuable piece, the queen, is worth nine points. Although checkmate can be had without the queen, it is always extremely helpful to have her capabilities at your disposal. A game of chess can be very similar to life. The player's goal to capture the opposing king can symbolize an individual's goal to achieve a satisfying life. While the symbolism of each other piece is largely dependent

on each individual person's opinions and situations, a pawn may represent things such as money and time. The knights and bishops may represent money, time, and certain relationships. The rooks may represent health and other relationships. The queen, for many people striving for a satisfying life, can represent a college education.

I will now attempt to explore a few reasons as to why a college education is so valuable in my pursuit for a satisfying life. While brainstorming for the values of a college education I realized most of the values could be roughly sorted into the four categories: financial, psychological, physical, and social. I say "roughly" because you will see many of the values have immediate effects on more than one of the categories. Also, to understand the true value of a college education, I feel one must also understand the negative side to it as well. Identifying the full picture of a college education helps a person avoid or, at least, minimize the things that might diminish its value. This also helps prevent disappointment and discouragement when inevitable negativities occur along the way.


I believe one of the most obvious values to a college education is the financial benefits obtained after earning a degree. Many studies show the increased earning potential of college graduates. The following graph displays the average earnings of workers compared to the education level they have achieved:

The data obtained by the U.S. Census Bureau from the years of 1997 through 1999 indicates an average annual income of $34,700 for the adults who worked any time during the study period. With the exception of workers with professional degrees, who have the highest average earnings, each successively higher education level is associated with an increase in earnings (U.S. Census Bureau, 2002). It should also be noted that the average is not even reached until after a person receives their associate's degree. Although it is clear the financial rewards of attaining a college degree are substantial, it does not come without certain investments of financial nature themselves.

Like priming a pump with water in order to get more water back, the majority of students must pay a relatively small fortune before receiving their chosen degree. It is not an inexpensive undertaking by anyone's standards. According to, even though the cost of a college education is less expensive than many people estimate, it can still be somewhat overwhelming. The average cost of a four year private college for the 2004 through 2005 school year is $20,082 (, 2004). Funds can be taken directly out of an individual's bank account, paycheck or wallet, or they can indirectly come from things such as lost opportunities. For example, a student may have to limit his job possibilities because of his school schedule. He may have to borrow money from family, friends, or an institution to pay tuition costs. Child care costs may be an issue for many people trying to attend college.

Even though there is always a risk of a recent college graduate not being able to immediately find a position to utilize their newly acquired degree it seems to be a very logical way of creating the best chances to obtain and succeed in a career they have chosen. And when both the negative and positive financial aspects of obtaining a college degree are considered, it is obvious that the financial benefits far outweigh, in the long run, the financial investment required.


Having explored the more obvious financial value of a college education we can now focus on some less apparent but extremely important aspects. Specifically, the psychological aspect can influence one's opinion of the college education's value. It might not be completely apparent before attending college but, if they didn't already know beforehand, a college student quickly learns the negative psychological effects they must endure while a student. The mental stress involved in near constant study and research, the daily struggle of testing and stretching your intellectual limits, questioning your ability to successfully survive the whole college experience, and regularly surrendering your work to be critically judged can be more to which many people are willing to submit themselves. How can the value of an education ever overcome the mental anguish required by a serious student? The psychological benefits are endless.

As an individual exercises their brain, by expanding their knowledge in different subjects, by practicing different ways of thinking, they increase their ability to learn and understand more. Each concept they learn and understand allows them to continue and learn another. The individual can use this knowledge to gain more knowledge through appropriately combining analytical skills, judgmental skills, research, calculation, practice and experience. A person has the capability of gaining confidence in their knowledge and can become more out-going. They receive praise and respect from family, friends, and even strangers for gaining knowledge or maybe even as simple as accomplishing an important goal. The power of the mind is only limited by ignorance. As a person learns the ignorance fades away. A person can then see new possibilities. They make smarter decisions with fewer mistakes. They can begin to accomplish more things on their own and rely less on others. They can be more productive creating more free time as a byproduct which contributes to reduced stress. Becoming more aware of the world around them an educated person learns to prepare for possibilities to which an uneducated person may be blind. Gaining an education challenges the individual's



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