Editorial: Making education a good investment

By Staff Editorial

Students go to college to get an education. It is expected that completion of that education… Students go to college to get an education. It is expected that completion of that education will make a student more competitive and competent in pursuit of employment within her given field. It follows that competitive employment usually means a competitive salary.

Expectations in salary should see a slight drop this year compared to last. 2010 bachelor’s degree graduates will see a 1.7 percent drop in average salary, from $48,515 to $47,673, according to the National Association of Colleges and Employers.

This general trend is not new to the public. But then again, neither is going to college.

The act of enrolling in college, specifically, colleges that offer liberal arts education, seems to be the product of a social norm. It’s the next step in the series of the learning years. For many, it’s just the thing to do after high school, and maybe it’s this unquestioning approach that leads to lower success later in life, if success is measured by salary.

Some deep thought about why one wants to go to college might change the decision she would have normally made out of pressure from our society, because it’s just the thing to do. It is possible that not going to college is better than having a degree and being in debt without finding a job with a decent salary.

The alternative to a liberal artseducation is a technical education, like that offered in a community college. Community college can have a negative stigma in the liberal arts culture, but might just win when it’s time to apply for a job.

What’s more, it’s usually much cheaper — and now a college in Michigan is making the deal even sweeter.

Lansing Community College in Michigan is guaranteeing students a job within a year of graduation or they will be refunded their tuition money, according to Time magazine. The deal applies to students taking six-week courses on track of becoming call-center specialists, pharmacy technicians, quality inspectors and computer machinists.

Sure, the deal is limited in scope, but it is still a guarantee. Likewise, students entering the deal are expected to be competitive and elite.

This deal highlights where the focus of community college is: students attend college to get trained for a certain job. That certain job contrasts how liberal arts education, while offering different advantages, affords a degree of uncertainty in what job a student might have.

The issue is not that technical education is better or worse than a liberal arts education. What is more important is what the student expects out of it.

In the middle of recession, it is time to become a responsible student, realize the hard statistics and evaluate goals. It is not time to take a liberal arts education for granted, but to enter it with respect for degree-completion rates and job prospects in any chosen field.