Evan Schwartz: Is it really worth it?

By the first day you arrive at college, you are probably already tens of thousands of dollars in debt, and several years away from a career that will earn you any significant amount of money. College is a suspension of reality for a few years, one that is rudely interrupted when debt, along with a diploma, comes crashing into your lap.

Four years deep into college, the question arises: Is it worth it? Not simply the work, the late nights, the early mornings, the stress and anxiety, and hours of studying and writing. Literally, the cost: Is college worth it?

GW President Steven Knapp explained the difficult choice facing college students in an interview with The Washington Post Wednesday. He noted, “A lot of our students are very interested in making a difference in the world. we don’t want to see their choices constrained by the need to pay back college loans after they graduate.” GW may try to help us with the cost, but according to CBS News, Americans are carrying close to $830 billion in college loan debt. A record high of five percent of people with college degrees are unemployed. And the average cost of a private college education is now $140,000, which doesn’t even come close to the cost of GW.

The numbers seem to speak for themselves. Suddenly, college seems like less of a natural progression after high school, and more of a life-altering decision. College is a path to a better future, a way to escape a difficult past, a way to satisfy friends and family and a way to get closer to a dream. But it is also a terrific way to end up 22 years-old and in debt.

The Wall Street Journal, however, reinforces what we all believed when we chose college. It reports that those with a college degree earn more than double what people with just a high school degree earn. Furthermore, the national unemployment rate is more than double the college graduate unemployment rate.

Ultimately, the prospect of college comes down to how one defines and values “education.” Spending four years drinking in dorm rooms and occasionally attending class may be part of the college experience, but what does it teach us? It is up to us to take advantage of the opportunities we have worked for, though we may not see the value of our tuition dollars until very far into the future. We may be putting off years of debt now, but what we are getting is an education that stands in stark contrast to the experience of flipping burgers.

Planning long-term is certainly not a strength for most 18-year-olds, but the value of an education goes beyond dollars and cents if you squeeze it for all it’s worth. GW may be one of the most expensive schools in the country, but it is worth it if you make it the most of it – through targeted learning, personal growth and experiences unique to a place like Washington, D.C.

College is about balancing four years of instant gratification with ten years of reality. College is about praying you will be making enough money in your 30s to compensate for being poor in your 20s.

-The writer, a senior majoring in journalism and mass communication, is a Hatchet columnist.

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