Is a university or college qualification still worth it?


Is a university or college qualification still worth it?

A recent article in the Wall Street Journal quotes "The Onion" news source as saying that a "30-year-old has earned $11 more than he would have without college education". What does this say to young people who left school in 2013? Should they now try to get into a university or college, or just look for a job and work their way up as best they can?

Some young people are fortunate and receive bursaries to pay for their studies. These can be partial or full bursaries and could still leave the learner with some level of debt, but certainly better than if she or he had to pay for everything. Debts can mount up quickly if you add up the registration fees, books, transport, as well as accommodation and meals if one is away from home too. For those who did not manage to get a bursary, bank loans may be an option. Working part-time while studying is another option, but adds more pressure to the learner's lifestyle. Parties and other learner activities just carry on adding up the costs - and the potential risks of not completing studies successfully. 

The broad alternatives are:

- go to a university (if your school marks are really good and you can get in);

- go to a community, technical, or further education and training college;

- take up a trade and combine work and learning in an apprenticeship;

- look for work where training is provided on-the-job;

- consider doing a few high-demand courses in IT, healthcare or another area where industry is looking for skilled staff and try to combine your own model of learning and work. Review what employers are looking for and train yourself specifically for one of these areas while trying to get into a 'starter' level job. 

Each of these has its costs and implications and learners need to understand what these are. Services are offered in some countries where learning and work advice are provided. Look for these opportunities on the web.  

The traditional university degree may still look like the only alternative to many, but with hard economic times, we need to consider all options that are open to us. 


Submitted on 7 January 2014.