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College Benefits and Lack of Guaranties


College is a costly endeavor that is considered almost mandatory in the modern society. However, is it necessary for every person to attend college? Isabel Sawhill and Stephanie Owen argue that college is not the best option for everyone. They provide both qualitative and quantitative arguments to support their idea. It is not an argument against higher education, but rather a critique of the idea that college education guarantees higher wages and job satisfaction. This paper will provide supporting arguments for this idea, and a rebuttal to possible counter-argument against it.

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College is not a Guarantee of Success

The authors provide an interesting argument about the possible return on education. With the cost of education being so high, it needs to be considered when talking about the financial benefit of education. The authors note that the more expensive the college, the less financial return would be. However, they are quick to point out that research shows that lifetime earnings of college graduates are much higher than those of high school graduates. Their argument is that these numbers are “average” and cannot be taken at face value (Sawhill and Owen). This is an important fact because people who do not succeed still have to pay the same student loans, which are some of the largest among the United States citizens (Walsemann et al. 85).

Another important factor to consider is whether the monetary benefits of college are necessary to enjoy a fulfilling life. Multiple studies show that higher income does not guarantee a higher degree of happiness (Whillans et al. 221; Kushlev et al. 483). Entrepreneurial young people, self-taught artists, artisans, people who chose to join the military, and people in a multitude of other scenarios are just as likely to lead a satisfying life. Unfortunately, these things are not as quantifiable as the return rate, but they are nonetheless important. Despite the atmosphere of uncertainty in the country, America still values people who choose to take their path. Therefore it is important not to discount people who choose to self-educate, and not spend time and money on college.

One of the main arguments against this idea is that it is worth taking the chance because a degree will always be useful while searching for a job. It brings a certain status to the resume that is seen as attractive to the employers. This is a fair point. Studies show that employers are more likely to hire a person with a college degree, rather than one without it (Martin et al. 221). However, this does not guarantee that employment, nor does it guarantee job satisfaction or a long lasting career. In America this issue is exacerbated by the size of the student loans that force the graduate to immediately seek employment, creating a highly competitive job market (Nunley et al. 45). With the immediate need for employment, there is little chance of independence until at least a few years after college. This situation cannot be acceptable for everyone. People in creative professions such as writers, directors, actors are likely to spend a lot of time on mundane jobs, without a chance for self-realization. With the low cost of technology, it is not uncommon to see people without a college degree achieve success in these fields.


A college education is important and valuable. However, it does not guarantee the results that some studies suggest. It is important to consider that people can achieve their goals without going to college. Not as a rule, but as a viable option.

Works Cited

Kushlev, Kostadin et al. “Higher Income is Associated with Less Daily Sadness but not More Daily Happiness.” Social Psychological and Personality Science, vol. 6, no. 5, 2015, pp. 483-489, Web.

Martin, Kimberly et al. “Community College Student Success.” Community College Review, vol. 42, no. 3, 2014, pp. 221-241.

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Nunley, John M. et al. “College Major, Internship Experience, and Employment Opportunities: Estimates from a Résumé Audit.” Labour Economics, vol. 38, no. 1, 2016, pp. 37-46.

Sawhill, Isabel, and Stephanie Owen. “Should Everyone go to College?” Brookings, Web.

Walsemann, Katrina M. et al. “Sick of our Loans: Student Borrowing and the Mental Health of Young Adults in The United States.” Social Science & Medicine, vol. 124, no. 5, 2015, pp. 85-93.

Whillans, Ashley V. et al. “Valuing Time over Money is Associated with Greater Happiness.” Social Psychological and Personality Science, vol. 7, no. 3, 2016, pp. 213-222, Web.

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