Friday, October 17, 2014

College ... A Great Investment in Time and Money? ... Or A Great Waste of Time and Money? The Correct Answer Very Much Is Up to the Enrolling Student ... Finish What You Start ... Otherwise Don't Start

College isn't for everybody. For those who take it seriously, watch carefully how much it costs (getting their money's worth, in other words) and graduate with a solid class ranking and lots of newly acquired knowledge, it's a really good deal. But for those who don't pay enough attention and do all of the above, it's probably a bad deal.

One course of action will pay big dividends in adulthood while the other approach is simply a colossal waste of time and money. Indebtedness too.

And which it represents is very much up to the student.

As a matter of fact, college definitely isn't for those who start and don't finish. Because for the non-finishers, it simply amounts to a few wasted years and often tens of thousands of dollars of wasted money, much of which is in the form of student loans that won't go away until repaid. Not a pretty picture. That's for sure.

A Bit of College Can Be Worse Than None at All provides much common sense advice for the prospective college attendee:

"Lauren Bizzaro has three years of college credits from High Point University in North Carolina and the University of Rhode Island. But with no degree, those credits got her little more than a late start in the professional world and a $40,000 student-loan balance.

Until recently, Ms. Bizzaro earned $11.50 an hour dressing, feeding and bathing patients as a licensed nursing assistant at a long-term-care and rehabilitation facility in Vermont. Now a unit coordinator who handles clerical tasks like arranging doctor appointments and updating patient charts, she can’t move further up the ranks without additional credentials, according to her employer. . . .

Americans have flocked to colleges in unprecedented numbers in the last half-decade, fueled by a conviction that postsecondary education is the surest route to steady employment and higher salaries.
Yet those who begin, but don’t complete, a degree are learning the hard way that the payoff is in finishing—or that they might have been better off not attending college at all.

The number of students who don’t complete college is growing. Nearly one-third of students who started college in 2012 didn’t return to a U.S. school the following year, according to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center. And a new report out from a group of higher-education organizations found that roughly two-thirds of students who return to school after interrupted courses of study still don’t graduate.

Those students may find themselves doubly damned: cut out of consideration for professional-track jobs, and starting their careers years behind their peers who entered the workforce with just high-school diplomas. Many have student loans to boot.

And both groups struggle to cobble together a living in their 20s. . . . There has been little or no difference in wages among 20- to 24-year-olds who graduated high school and those who completed some college but aren’t enrolled anymore. In 2011, wages for college dropouts were even lower, according to the Current Population Survey.

Median annual earnings for young adults with some college were $15,640 in 2012, the most-recent year available, on par with high-school graduates’ earnings. Associate-degree holders earned $18,120, while those with at least a bachelor’s degree could expect median earnings of $24,990.

“The sheepskin effect is huge,” says Paul Harrington, director of Drexel’s Center for Labor Markets and Policy. . . .

A few semesters of college can drag on young workers’ finances for years. In 2009—the most-recent year available—more than half of students at four-year public or private, nonprofit institutions who didn’t complete college took out federal loans, with average borrowings of $9,300 to $10,400 depending on the type of school, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. Eighty-six percent of for-profit college dropouts had accrued federal debt.

Those loans are weighing more on people who don’t finish school than they used to. In 2001, such people had federal loan debt totaling 24% of their annual income, a figure that rose to 35% by 2009. . . .
When a degree was still a relative rarity, any college experience helped a candidate stand out. But postsecondary education is now the norm for enough people that a short stint in college is no longer a positive differentiator, says Anthony Carnevale, a labor economist who runs Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce.

More than half of employers now require a college credential for all jobs, and nearly one-third now hire college graduates for jobs that previously went to high-school graduates, according to a 2013 CareerBuilder survey of 2,600 hiring managers. Labor-market analytics firm Burning Glass Technologies recently found that 65% of postings for executive secretaries and assistants call for bachelor’s degrees, but just 19% of current secretaries have such credentials.

Few hiring managers say that college graduates are more qualified than nongrads for jobs in retail and warehouses, but as long as the job market is tight, employers say they can afford to be picky.

Candidates with degrees or certificates have “shown perseverance and persistence to obtain that credential,” says Kevin Brinegar, president and chief executive of the Indiana Chamber of Commerce. . . .

“You want people who can go through an experience and drive it to completion,” says Eric Eden, vice president of marketing at event-management software company Cvent, Inc. in Tysons Corner, Va. . . .

The rise of vocational certifications in subjects like computer programming and manufacturing can lead to well-paying jobs and prove that a bachelor’s degree isn’t the only path to success, some labor economists say. . . .

Ms. Bizzaro says she has no immediate plans to return to school, but it may only be a matter of time. Jeanne Phillips, senior vice president and chief human-relations officer at Genesis Healthcare LLC, says Ms. Bizzaro’s current position could be a step toward a solid career opportunity, “with the right credentials.”"

Summing Up

College represents a huge investment in terms of an individual's time, effort and money.

When the experience ends badly, it's time lost and opportunities missed forever. 

And on top of that, student loans will negatively impact the young person's choices for years, if not decades, after college days have become a distant memory.

In order for that big investment in time and money to pay off, the student should seriously commit to perform at a high level and graduate.

Otherwise upon leaving high school, the young 'student' would be better advised to save the time and money, skip the whole ordeal, and enter either vocational training or proceed directly to the job market.

That's my take.

Thanks. Bob.

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