Why the Value of a College Education is Decreasing

By Rishi R Shah, Opinion Writer

When the first colleges were created, the prestige of attending one was high, and society thrived with a basket of well-educated leaders. Even until the late 1970’s college was meant to be only for a selective few.

According to Statista.com, the percentage Americans who have gained a college degree skyrocketed from 8.2% of females and 14.1% of males in 1970 to 32.7% females and 32.3% males in 2015.

Today there seem to be few alternatives for those who decide high school is to be the end of their formal education. In recent decades the standards for many well-paying employers went from a candidate having a high-school diploma or GED, to requiring at minimum a bachelor’s degree.

This shift in standards has created a wider division between employers and employees in regards to whom these jobs are available too.

Company loyalty has grown increasingly lackluster, as most employees will find the next best job for themselves. This often leaves leaving companies shorthanded.

According to a 2012 article from Forbes, “the average company loses anywhere from 20% to 50% of its employee base each year”, which is a drastic change from the 80’s.

In addition, certain jobs like IT help technicians, now often require a bachelor’s degree. Whereas in the past most would attain certification through technical school programs, today they required to go through a long and tedious process just to be considered for a position.

Of course, many students are more than capable of attaining a degree and education is getting stronger with more resources being provided, but the simple fact is that an influx of dare I say, “subpar degrees”, is hurting the overall value of a college education.

We can compare this to inflation of currency: the more degrees you have floating around, the less they are valued by society at large. Companies can offer less pay to someone with a college diploma since many willing graduates can fill their positions.

According to USAToday, 36% of college students “did not demonstrate any significant improvement in learning” over a full four years in college. The reason cited was a “lack of rigor” and likely has to do with student motivation. College is now almost mandatory.

Those seeking a well-paying job are now forced into attending college: which is certainly not a good thing. College was originally meant for those who “want” to attend it, but nowadays the situation has been reduced to subliminal coercion. This has created a low standard for institutions accepting unmotivated applicants.

It seems that in a few years, associates degrees will be almost useless as employers continue to seek out more “educated” employees. A Bachelor’s degree is already viewed as a standard requirement for many jobs, and slowly the same can be said for master’s degrees.

Increasing demands for more formal education will hurt those who chose not to attend graduate school, and in no time we will have doctorate level kindergarten teachers.

Even though many jobs are attainable with vocational education and 2-year programs, society continues to look down upon them whilst employers seem to constantly raise the minimum requirements. So the question remains, it this worth it?


A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, September 27th print edition.

Contact Rishi at


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