Why Get a College Education?

Why do we go to college? Is it just to get a better job and earn more money, or is there some other, deeper and longer-lasting purpose?

The U. S. Department of Labor published a report that stated what some of us already knew: a lot of college graduates are having trouble finding suitable jobs. Not only that, they are increasingly unable to repay their student loans, and wind up back home, living with their parents in order to make ends meet. Depending upon where we live, some economically-challenged technology companies are letting employees go – not hiring.

A local career consultant says that for every job that pays in the 30 to 35 thousand dollar range, it is not uncommon to get 200 resumes and a lot of them are overqualified for the position being offered. In some areas of the country, an entry level clerical position will generate scores of resumes from people with college degrees, even advanced degrees, who are willing and eager to work at jobs for which they are extremely overqualified. Those student loans demand payments.

But if a college degree no longer guarantees a good job after graduation, there are still compelling reasons for continuing our education. As columnist Charles Osgood once pointed out, “The reason for studying history, philosophy, the humanities and the arts and sciences is to better understand ourselves, each other, and the world around us.

“Going to college doesn’t give you all the answers. It doesn’t guarantee that someday you will live in a big house or drive a fancy car. But it does give you some exposure to the wisdom and the folly of the ages. The world has never been more complex than it is right now. Education helps to sort the wheat from the chaff . . . and real values from phony ones.”

Critical thinking skills have never been more valued or more needed. Higher education provides the knowledge and hones the intuition that allows us to see the world with a discerning eye and mind. College degrees may have lost some of their allure, but higher education should not.