his article comes from the Campus Contributor Network. Over the course of the semester, students from across our campus outreach program will analyze their school’s finances and assess the overall return students see on their educational investments.
Over the course of the semester, we have discussed the relative costs and benefits of getting a Penn State degree. The results of this analysis have largely been a mixed bag.
Getting a college degree is expensive – even at a public institution such as Penn State, getting a degree forces many students into significant debt. The burden of this debt can be heavy in an unsettling job market. That is why institutions of higher learning need to adopt a modern education model that better prepares students for the workforce.
So, is it still worth it?
There is still plenty of compelling research that supports the assertion that pursuing a college degree is worth the investment. College graduates are more likely to be employed than those who did not attend college. Not only does a degree ensure higher rates of employment, but degree recipients earn, on average, $17,500 more per year than those with only a high school diploma. Additionally, college graduates are more likely to report higher happiness rates than their peers who did not attend college.
However, not all college degrees are created equal. Some degrees are associated with much higher incomes post college. The highest paying degrees tend to be those in STEM fields, with the top three being Petroleum Engineering, Systems Engineering and Agricultural Sciences.
From these findings, it may seem as though liberal arts degrees are no longer worth the financial investment. But when asked what skills they value when choosing who to hire, employers report looking for strong communication skills and the ability to work in a team – skills generally associated with a liberal arts education.
What this discrepancy points to is that a more well-rounded education is going to be increasingly relevant for graduates looking for work after college. Liberal arts majors may need to supplement their educations with classes in ‘harder’ skills such as coding and data analytics, and those in STEM fields may have to supplement their educations with classes in communication and writing.
Getting a well-rounded education
Penn State does a relatively good job at providing students (or, forcing upon them) access to a variety of skills through the general education curriculum that is required of every student, reagrdless of major. According to the university, general education exists for the exact purpose of, “rounding out the specialized training students receive in their majors.”
However, students tend to resist these requirements under the belief that they are unneccesarry and take time away from focusing time on their intended major. Once students understand the importance and necessity of this dynamic education, their aversion towards such a curriculum may subside.
But it shouldn’t come down to simple gen eds. In order to meet this educational demand, GenFKD is launching a new initiative at Colorado State University next semester and hopes to implement it across the country in the near future.
In an increasingly competitive job market and changing economy, a combination of hard techincal skills and strong professional skills will be necessary for those who hope to find gainful employment.