Does College Still Matter in 2020?

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Does a college degree still matter in 2020? That is the big question for today’s generation. So, we ran the numbers to help you decide if you should go to college.

The world seems to be changing faster than ever, doesn’t it?


So understandably, people everywhere are questioning whether the educational trajectories of our parents’ generation are still relevant for today’s fast-moving job market and global society.


We like this type of debate and encourage you to ask questions instead of taking things for granted, so we thought we’d walk our talk and break down one of the biggest questions facing today’s young adults: Does college still matter in 2020? If so, why does college matter? And do degrees matter?


1) The Financial Investment


College can be expensive. In some cases, crazy expensive. In 2016, Business Insider reported that the University of Cambridge is developing a PhD business program, that’s set to cost $332,000.


Yes, that’s a PhD program, but bachelor’s degrees aren’t cheap either. Business Insider reported that the bachelor’s degree of music at Bard College might be one of the most expensive BAs around, costing $253,520.


If these were the only options, college might be out of reach for many students, but with degrees available in other top quality universities for as little as $4,060 for the entire degree, it’s something that can be in reach for all. Still, the question remains – why does college matter anymore in 2020?


2) Finding a Job and Remaining Employed


Let’s face it, a college degree holds a higher prestige than a high school diploma, and many people seem to appreciate those who’ve made the effort and graduated.


According to a 2016 study by Georgetown University, the majority of the jobs still go to bachelor’s degree graduates. Reporting on the study, CNN Money noted that “of the 11.6 million jobs created after the Great Recession, 8.4 million went to those with at least a bachelor’s degree.” This is a substantial difference in proportional terms: Only 36% of Americans earned a bachelor’s degree or higher, compared to 30% of Americans holding an associate degree and 34% holding a high-school diploma or less.


If you still have doubts on whether a college degree is worth the investment, check out this 2016 report from the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics about 2015’s employment rates by educational attainment:


While the median unemployment rate in the country was 4.3% of the population, those with a bachelor’s degree were only 2.8% of the unemployed population, and those with only a high school diploma were 5.4% of the unemployed population.


In other words, those who graduated from high school but did not go on to college were twice as likely to become unemployed than those with a college degree.


And according to Forbes, the demands for higher education is steadily increasing in the job market.


“86% of companies planned to hire recent MBA graduates in 2017 compared with 79% in 2016, according to the GMAC report… 41% of employers are now hiring college grads for jobs that high school grads formerly held… Companies are increasingly hiring candidates with masters degrees for jobs that previously required bachelor’s degrees,” reported Forbes.


3) Meeting People & Networking


Today’s fellow students will become tomorrow’s colleagues, so making friends in college is an easy way to build your professional network early on. You’ll also be able to connect with professors, who might then be able to connect you with their connections in the industry, which could make it easier to find a great first professional job.


4) Developing Skills You Can Use in the Workplace


One of the main arguments of those who are not in favor of going to college is that it doesn’t train you to work in the “real world,” but according to Entrepreneur, “academic assignments develop skills that are in high demand among top employers,” including general communication skills, writing skills, research skills and collaboration skills.


In the 2016 University of the People Students Satisfaction Survey, many of our students shared that they already use the knowledge and skills they gained in courses in their workplaces.


5) Starting Your Own Business


To be honest, there’s more information online now than ever before, not to mention a wealth of books on practically every topic. If you’re the kind of person who can study for years on end without any external motivation – then you can become an entrepreneur with no extra costs.


However, this is more relevant if you’re looking to start your own business rather than getting a traditional job. We’ve all heard about successful entrepreneurs who never graduated from college – and about teenagers who built successful businesses on YouTube or Instagram from their childhood bedroom before they even graduated from high school.


But keep in mind that these success stories happen to the minority of the population – and often seem a lot easier said than done.


Not to mention that according to Forbes, if you want to start your own business, you need more than a first degree to become a successful entrepreneur – which is why it might be beneficial to get a master’s, too. “Graduate schools actually have a rich tradition of entrepreneurship instruction. Indeed, MBAs have launched nearly a quarter of ‘unicorn’ startups, defined as those worth $1 billion or more,” Forbes reported.


6) Your Potential Salary


If you look at the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics report we mentioned in the latter, you’ll see that a degree significantly impacts your financial prosperity.


The median weekly salary in the general US population is $860. However, those who hold a bachelor’s degree earn can earn up to $1,137 and those with only a high school degree earn a smaller income at $678.


That’s $54,576 a year if you have a bachelor’s degree, versus $32,544 if you only have a high school diploma.


7) The Return on Your Financial (and Time) Investment When You Get a University Degree


Once you graduate, and assuming you work in the US, you’re expected to earn $54,576 a year, versus $32,544 if you only have a high school diploma. That’s $22,032 more a year, or $110,160 more in the next 5 years, and that’s not counting promotions and salary increases, which will be more easily accessible as a university graduate.


As a side note, if you attend an online affordable university, like UoPeople, you can choose your own class hours and study at your own pace, which makes it easier to combine a full-time job and earn more than the average student. Alternatively, because the cost of the degree is so low, you might be able to live off a part time job and live a more balanced life than the average college student.


If you’re conflicted between a bachelor’s degree and an associate degree, click here for 7 points to take into consideration. If you’re interested in computer science, click here for a comparison between the advantages and disadvantages of a diploma vs. associate’s degree vs. a bachelor’s degree.


Is a College Degree Still Worth it in 2020?


We recommend starting with the end in mind. Think about where you’d like to be in 5 or 10 years. Think about what your dream life could look like.


Then work backwards and figure out whether a college degree is the best choice for you.


If you want to consult with someone, we’re always here for you.