Why College Matters: Invest in Your Future

The debate over the value of a college education is steadily rising. Here’s why we think earning your degree is more important now than ever before.

Before COVID-19 ushered in more challenges, the value of a college education was already controversial. Entrepreneurs argue that the future of higher education lies in a “stripped down” experience. That means abandoning lectures, football games, and Frisbee throwing on the quad in favor of virtual experiences that get right to the point. These excessive attributes, they argue, are one of the primary drivers of increased tuition costs. College tuition costs have led to a rise in student loan debt, which has surpassed the nationʼs total credit card debt and has become a topic of political debate. At the same time, e-learning opportunities are expanding. Itʼs now easier than ever to think that you can gain all the skills you need simply by watching YouTube videos.
 
These arguments should be considered. But they leave out key aspects of the higher education experience that are difficult to replicate. They fail to account for the fact that by earning a college education, you’re investing in your future in ways that lie far beyond the skills that you learn inside the classroom. Here’s why a college education matters and why you’d do well to earn one.
Two college students working in a lab.

Grow Your Skills, Build Your Network

Any career path comes with a necessary set of skills, whether they’re technical, behavioral, or otherwise. As expected, you’ll gain them in college in more ways than one. Classroom experience will give you both theory and practice from experts in their fields. Internships will show you how those skills play out in real-world scenarios at some of the most impactful organizations. Classmates will help you “level up” your thinking through debates, group projects, research initiatives, and more. Those classmates will then become part of your professional network and will become some of your closest friends—for life.

Thereʼs Data to Support It

The argument that college isn’t worth the cost is gaining traction across the country. This has become even more prominent in the midst of the American economic crisis. College is expensive—but that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t pay off. A recent study conducted by the College Board found that a college education equates to “higher pay, upward mobility…and greater civic engagement.” College graduates earn roughly 73 percent more than their peers who only have a high school diploma. Those with advanced degrees are eight times more likely to be earning at least $100,000. The Brookings Institution also found that college graduates lead healthier, longer lives. While the cost is significant, the benefits will continue to show themselves in ways throughout the rest of your life.

Grow Beyond the Classroom

You’ve likely heard the saying that your college years are the “best years of your life.” I couldn’t agree more! They truly are, but not just because you’re young with an assortment of opportunities ahead of you. Your college years are the ones where you have the most flexibility to explore your interests. These are the years where students gain cross-cultural experience while studying away, learn the ins and outs of what a new city (or cities!) has to offer, and build long-lasting relationships that change the course of their lives.

These are the years where your professors will push you to do more than you could have imagined. You may find love, try your new favorite food, or learn a new language. Maybe you thought that computer engineering was what you always wanted. But then after taking an international relations course, your perspective changed. Many of these things can happen at any point in your life. But it’s far easier for them to happen at the point in your life when the future is flexible. As a result, the person who walks across the commencement stage will be far more experienced, intellectual, culturally aware, and ambitious. When you look back, you may not recognize the person who first stepped foot onto campus four years prior!

NYU students in front of large letters spelling “NYU.”