This Year, Is Higher Education Worth the Cost?

Summer may be at its peak, but just around the corner, another school year waits. Not just for children to return to class from summer vacation, but for a growing number of people in America, from the unemployed to those with newly minted degrees. 

This year, a rising number of unemployed Americans are returning to school to improve their knowledge and skills in an increasingly tough job market. In fact, many community colleges reporting their largest enrollment spikes ever attribute the increase to the need to meet the demands of a highly competitive job market.

To cope with the monetary strain of higher education, many high school graduates are simply opting for a low tuition option such as in-state or community colleges, rather than ivy league, gold sticker institutions.

Many new college grads, who faced a dreary job outlook upon their recent graduation, are opting to go straight into grad school, fearing uncertain immediate employment future. In fact, the National Association of Colleges and Employers reported that 26% of new grads planned to go on to graduate school, up from 24% in 2008 and 20% in 2007.

So, with all this emphasis on going back to school, we want to know what you think. Is it worth it to get a college or graduate degree in this recession? Let us know by voting in our poll below.

Are you struggling with the decision of whether or not to enroll in higher education? Looking to increase your skills, or hoping a degree will help you earn a higher paycheck? Share your thoughts on higher education in our comments section.


  1. Jack H

    If you are over 50 and changing to a different field of employment especially internet technology you can expect to hear
    1. We are looking for someone with experience!
    2. We usually hire younger people. Most people can’t make the transition!
    Higher education should increase your income or at least make you more employable. School can keep you busy while waiting for the job market to improve however if you are unable to translate your learning into employment financially all you have gained is debt. Look carefully before you leap.

  2. Tanya

    These days a Bachelor’s degree is as good as a GED!!!! Unless you have a Master’s or PhD or you “know” someone, your degree isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on!!!!
    Sorry, just a little bitter and frustrated… I’m being hounded for student loans, and with my BBA, I can’t even find a job!!!

  3. Hark Momer

    I have an MBA from an accredited school and nobody wants to pay more than $10/hour. Our career services is worthless.
    I’m bitter, frustrated, and ready to light my school on fire for wasting my time and money.

  4. Brian

    Higher education is good providing you invest the time in relevant courses. Far too many people go to secondary school only to come out to start at the bottom. If you take further education, suggest taking courses that will give you a career.

  5. Coryn

    I am not sure that returning to school is the best answer. If you already have work experience in your industry or you are switching careers, you might have luck finding employment upon graduation. I have several friends that went into technical or healthcare fields (x-ray tech, physical therapists) that were able to find jobs upon graduation. I just wouldn’t recommend going from undergraduate to graduate school without any real work experience. It will be even harder in my opinion when you graduate.

  6. William Chamberlain

    Companies want experience but they want education also. If you go after the education they want more experience. Go directly into a working environment to get the knowledge and experiance3 and they want education. It is my belief that experience should out way the education. People can be book and computer smart but yet have the intelligence to get in out of the rain. With experience you can handle the unexpected daily issues but you may need a little training on the PC. Some companies spend a lot of money educating its employees on site in classroom settings. Some reimburse for education others can’t afford it. I want someone with experience more so than education.

  7. Jillv

    I do recommend higher education; however try to do it without the loans. Rule #1 – it is who you know and networking is critical. Rule #2 – higher education is a door opener and a weeding out process. Rule #3 – Often times Rule 1 & 2 come into play before qualifications/experience. When an employer receives too many resume’s they look for ways to cut them back..typically based on education. Those without the higher education get tossed regardless of qualifications. I just read an article this morning that stated it is taking most applicants up to 8 months to find a job in today’s market. Hang in there.

  8. Steve Browning

    I graduated 25 years ago with a BSBA. I have found that my education has only attracted employors. It has not helped me accomplish the tasks I have been assigned over the years. I think education is important,but a good work ethic and anlytical skills make a better employee.
    Higher education tends to make a person think they should start at the top. People that start at the bottom and work their way up in my opinion make better managers. They know the business not just the theory.

  9. Ellen

    Judging from your comments, this poll may not be so accurate. I have a BS but have chosen not to work in that field. While I have toyed with going back, the expense is not often worth the reward. No one can assure you of a job, unless Daddy owns the company or you are starting your own company. It is a risk and should be looked at individually.

  10. amyjodeb

    I think universities and colleges are in the business of selling an education so this is what they work on doing. People think having more than a bachelors degree is important but I work alongside those with no degree and make less than they do (because of tenure). I have a husband who graduated with his bachelors degree this summer only to find nothing more than the tool maker jobs he had before he decided to go back to school! He has now decided to go back to school because he can get living expenses money while he goes back which pays more than a regular job he can find right now. As a result, he will wrack up more debt and more time in hopes of finding a career in the end but it’s never certain. You have to smart today to find a good job but book smart doesn’t cut it.

  11. Upset Student..

    I am going through the current situation as Tanya, I have my BBA also and 2 class until i get my Master’s in Healthcare Administration. I decided to take the route in moving towards the healthcare field with no luck at all. All job requirements ask that I have worked in a healthcare setting prior to employment, I’ve only had experience in retail Management. The current market is not willing to train anyone towards his or her profession of choice.So, I dont think getting a higher education is relevant at this time!!! Its just a way to put people in more debt. The only people who are willing to train is the military, now im wishing I had made that choice ealier in my LIFE…..

  12. Will

    A degree doesn’t provide anyone with a guarantee. It does tend to open more doors than those who don’t have a degree, but that is about it.
    Having a degree may still mean getting a job on the entry level. Yes someone right out of high school could probably very well be working right next to you, and making more money. This is were paying your “dues” come in. Over time the individual with a degree will be able take on more advanced jobs because not only will they have a degree, but they will now have the experience. If all you can make is $10 right out of college I say take that job, with in 10years you will be making 3-4 times that amount, with the proper motivation.
    That being said, no I don’t think having a college degree leads to success. Success is determined on how hard someone is willing to work.
    William Chamberlain (7/7/09 at 2:47) has a good post.

  13. Susanne

    Getting a higher education will not necessarily convert into immediate employment or a greater income however you are more likely to be in a position to increase your income at a faster rate later on. College/University graduates should expect to start in entry level positions in this economy. If you were capable enough to complete university or college and commit to that you are likely capable enough to put some hard work and dedication into your job to open up better job opportunities or promotions after gaining experience. I believe some major characteristics that college/university graduates have over non-graduates is a stronger abilty to learn quickly and a much better ability to work with others at all levels of an organization.

  14. Nomen Nein

    A lot of the dissentment with the doors opened with a degree comes from two very static issues. 1) people are not retiring. If you have a BA/BS and there’s 5000 people who have 20 years of experience who have worked with said company doing said job for 20 years, they’ll get it first.
    2) people are not willing to relocate. In order to get that experience, you sort of got to be willing to go pretty much anywhere, including places very cold, or very hot, even perhaps under a rock filled with pit vipers to scrub a toilet to get your foot in the door. If you can get on with the right company in *any* department, then you can build the networking connections to get into your desired field.

  15. Jerry Haymaker

    I have a BS in business management and a AS in computer science and cannot find work. I am 53 yrs. and spent most of my working life as an industrial electrician. It did help that type of work to have computer skills but now with most of the factory work shipped overseas it is in less demand.
    Higher education is valuable where there is demand and guessing that there will be demand after completing the time to get a degree is tough. The job market and the economy have been ravaged by unfair trade and outsourcing of jobs to other countries or bringing in foreign workers. Its not likely to change without reverseing that situation. The economy needs people to spend money to be health. People need good steady jobs to have money to spend and the elimination of tariffs that protected those jobs created the collapse of the housing market and the economy. Short term profits for the wealthy killed economic stability for America.

  16. Win

    Education is a great place to start if you stay on track and are lucky. I have a terminal degree in my field but now choose to work in a different field for personal and family reasons. I am no more eligible for advancement at my new company than the co-workers with GED’s and High School Diplomas. I can write, speak and have strong critical thinking skills, but that is not enough. A co-worker with a one-year technical degree has a better chance at advancement even though they are partially illiterate and have no true sense of problems solving. Many companies today don’t want an employee to think, just do without question or complaint. An education is still very important in may professional fields of employment but be careful what you study and where you study. I value my past employment experiences and would not trade them for anything but no one else outside my original field of study sees what I have accomplished.

  17. Charlie

    Interesting question.
    If the purpose of getting a higher education is to make enough money, make a living, and eventually retire, then “No.”
    Unless, that education teaches you how to create your own passive income and manage your finances so you are independent indefinitely.
    The dependency on an employer to take care of you now and in retirement is risky. With global competition no one has a secure job. Working just to get health benefits is not only robbing you doing what your were born to do, but is not a dependable way to insure your health. What happens if you can’t work because of an illness? There goes your coverage (when you need it most).
    I urge all employees to start building other sources of income for their protection.
    Thanks for this post!

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