Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

January 29, 2013

Education pays

But college not for everyone; students need to know that

The Independent

ASHLAND — With the cost of obtaining a college degree rising rapidly in recent years, the Kentucky agency that regulates higher education wants individuals to know that college still is worth the investment.

In a newly released policy brief titled “College Still Pays,”  the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education says 56 percent of Kentucky’s jobs are projected to require at least some college by 2020.

The council says over the course of a 40-year career, Kentuckians with bachelor’s degrees are projected to earn $879,000 more than high school graduates. Those with a graduate degree could earn as much as $1.34 million more in that time.

While the value of a college education has been documented for years, it still is important for Kentuckians to know that college is not for everyone. Either because of poor preparation in high school or poor study habits or attendance in college, some individuals simply lack the skills to earn a college degree, and by the end of their first year in college, most college officials are able to identify which students are most likely to earn a degree and which ones lack the ability to go to college. It is unfair to poor-performing students and to taxpayers to keep extending federally backed loans to students who are not progressing toward a degree. Instead of approving money for those students to attend another semester of college, school advisers should direct those students into a field where they are far more likely to be successful.

The Council on Postsecondary Education is right when it says those with college degrees are likely to earn far more money during their careers than those lacking degrees, but there also still are many good-paying jobs that do not require a four-year college degree. While most of them are likely to require some education beyond high school, a certificate or associate’s degree earned at a community and technical college can open the doors to many good jobs.

And even a four-year college degree is no guarantee of landing a good-paying job.  A number of new college graduates in recent years have been frustrated at their inability to find jobs in the careers of their choice. One reason is because the continuing weak economy throughout the U.S. has many companies reluctant to hire additional employees. As the economy continues,  one hopes the job opportunities for new college grads also will increase.

Another reason for the failure of some college grads to find jobs is the career choices they made while in college. In deciding their college majors, students should look at the job prospects and choose a major where the chances of getting a job are best. That does not mean they need to major in a field that they dislike, but it does mean they should avoid earning degrees in fields where the job prospects are slim.

A college education is a major investment, and it is not unusual for students to complete college owing thousands of dollars in debt. The Council on Postsecondary Education is right when it says a college education is a great investment, but at the same time, college is not for everyone and even the best students still have to make the right decisions to land a good-paying job.