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Why College Is Still Worth the Cost (Even If You Never "Use" Your Degree)

We have a serious problem: due to the high cost of education, many people forget that a good, well-rounded education is still worth the investment. Education shapes how we think and, therefore, who we are. Once earned, it can never be taken away.

Recently, Forbes.com contributor Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry wrote a post suggesting that tomorrow's jobs wouldn't require a college degree. Gobry is right to discuss the high value of learning a marketable trade, but he misses the mark when he considers education unnecessary and obsolete. Even he admits that many employers who hire medical secretaries and lab assistants, for example, prefer college-educated applicants, but he doesn't understand why.

The reason is simple: because college teaches you to think. A college-educated applicant has already proven that she is teachable, takes learning seriously, and most importantly, will work toward a goal. While there are plenty of American high school graduates who are willing and able to work toward specific goals, unfortunately, at this date, a high school diploma is no indication of this. A higher degree is.

Gobry references the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) when discussing the trades that are growing in demand. Personal Care and Home Health Aides are at the top of the list. Less glamorous and less educated than nurses, aides average about $20,000 per year. The need for them may be growing, but advising a high school graduate to limit himself to this trade while eschewing education is sentencing him to a life of poverty beyond what any school debt will do.

The good news is that according to PayScale's data on the return on investment (ROI) for different colleges and universities, college is still a good investment for many fields. Instead of pinching pennies and worrying about repaying large student debts, the educable in this country are better off biting the bullet and becoming well-educated. They will be worth higher salaries, not because of the degree, but because of the experience gained earning the degree.

Rather than skipping education, those entering the workforce should strive to become both well-educated and multi-skilled. Multi-skilled people are most likely to survive in a volatile economy, because they have more abilities and possibilities to fall back on. For example, if you love poetry and are good at plumbing, why not do both? Go to school, write poetry, and while you are pitching your poems to publishers, pay the rent by working as a plumber. The two are not mutually exclusive, and you will be both happy and well-fed.

Tell Us What You Think

Do you think a college degree is still worth the cost? Join the conversation on Twitter.

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(Photo Credit: plumberluton/Flickr)

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