Most Americans Feel College Degree Isn’t Worth The Cost

In a growing notion, more and more American's feel that the value of a college degree is not as profitable as once touted.

By Jessica Marie Baumgartner | Published

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college degree

The cost of a college degree has skyrocketed. This has been a serious point of discussion since well before the pandemic. As schools spend more and more to accommodate students with extravagant amenities and require more and more classes to complete degree programs, many Americans have lost faith in higher education altogether. 

Instead of offering streamlined degree programs that provide students with the knowledge needed in order to find various job prospects in a certain field, many university graduates have been forced to sit through extraneous cornerstone and capstone classes. An added focus on identity politics has even driven some institutes of higher learning to require students to sit through lessons that preach one-sided political ideologies in order to earn their college degree. Some of these offer extra credit for activism and even vilify students for being born male, white, or heterosexual. 

If this isn’t enough to make young adults question the validity of these education programs, colleges have also installed costly water parks, climbing walls, and other unnecessary recreational extravagances that make campuses look more like theme parks than schools. While plenty of young adults admit they prefer colleges with these sorts of amenities to traditional universities, the price tag is well above what the average student can afford. College degree programs were originally developed to teach students how to work in a specified field, but as classes have been inflated and coursework veers toward political battles instead of tangible skill sets, most Americans don’t believe that earning a diploma is worth the costs. 

A new study from the bipartisan nonprofit, Public Agenda, displays that democrats, republicans, and independents are increasingly questioning the value of obtaining a college degree. The majority of voters across the political spectrum believe that the American economy is being manipulated to favor the wealthy, and that financial aid is no longer adequately aiding young adults in their pursuit of a higher education. In addition, while democrats and republicans hold different views of how race should play into tuition assistance, the majority of all survey respondents admitted that additional support should be offered to students with low-income backgrounds.

More than half of those surveyed believe that community colleges are offering more affordable quality education options, but 28% believe that to be true for public 4-year universities, and that drops down to 20% for more selective 4-year schools. The majority of respondents were likely to support taxpayer investments if transparency was accurately represented. This is properly displayed by the whopping 86% of individuals who believe that public colleges should be held to a requirement that ensures they inform students of just how much debt they will incur throughout their college degree program and 79% are in favor of tax credits for companies which implement employer-based tuition assistance programs. 

The overall costs of earning a college degree increased 169% between 1980 and 2020. This included a 25% spike that occurred between 2009 and 2019 alone. As the cost of tuition far outpaces inflation, and rates of pay once adults enter their professions, the value of a college degree just isn’t keeping up with modern needs, or those of alternative options, such as trade schools and workforce training programs.

college degree

As always, academia still claims that acquiring a college education is necessary to find success, but after the pandemic exposed many flaws in higher education and the education system as a whole, many are skeptical. Instead of focusing on spending thousands of dollars to rack up debt and earn a college degree, many Americans are finding success by learning useful trades or opening their own businesses. Whether universities acknowledge their own shortcomings or not, they are facing record enrollment drops and will have to adjust accordingly.