Is College Worth It?

Kevin J McWilliams

Assistant Professor and Program Director

Bachelor of Science in Management

Fisher College 

As college costs continue to rise, many people are questioning whether it is worthwhile to pursue an undergraduate degree. However, the hard statistics indicate that a bachelor's degree, despite the high price tag, continues to have a positive cost benefit in terms of lifetime income. As of 2022, the annual salary difference between workers with just a high school diploma and a bachelors degree is over $26,000 a year (Tretina, 2022). The difference is even more significant for people with degrees in professional fields such as management. Throughout their careers, college graduates can earn hundreds of thousands of dollars more than if they did not complete their degree.

So, the hard math indicates that just getting the credential of a bachelors degree continues to pay off significantly. However, I am a firm believer that in life the more you put into things the more you get out of them and it is absolutely true in education. Students who pursue their coursework as an opportunity to grow their cognitive abilities get much more bang for their buck. Just completing the degree might get them a job, but how deeply they learn will give them stronger skills to advance in their professional path. A college education obviously involves acquiring knowledge, but equally if not more important is developing a person's capacity to think deeply and effectively communicate their thoughts and ideas.

I view education as training for your brain. One can go to a gym to train their muscles and cardiovascular capacity, then half-heartedly go through the motions and derive marginally benefit. However, people who deliberately work through every exercise repetition or push themselves with focus will see better results in their physical fitness. The same principle applies to college coursework. Students can get through assignments adequately well enough to get a good grade, but the student who digs in and treats the assignment as an opportunity to learn and grow will derive a much greater value in their mental strength. The same grades may result, but students who focus more on the coursework will be better off as they navigate their professional lives with a better-trained brain. 

I perceive that the students who are a little more mature and actively in the workforce are better positioned to maximize their learning experiences. Many of the traditional college students who come straight from high school lack any context for the business concepts that management courses consider, making the application of what they are learning to the real world more difficult. This is not the case for the working student, as they can see how the course topics can be applied to their working world and the value of honing their analytical and communication skills.

The tradeoff for working students is that they often have even less time than the money required for school. Someone may lend you money for school, but there is no way to borrow time. Thus, it’s unrealistic that every course assignment can be pursued deliberately as ideal. My advice for students who are juggling school and life is to pick their spots. Yes, do well in every assignment so you can attain your desired grades. Then, try to find two or three assignments in each course where you can train your brain vigorously, similar to going to the gym and putting in a great workout. This is the true benefit of a college education that will not show on any piece of paper but often subtly empowers the graduate to advance their lives.


Tretina, K. (2022, July 6). Is college worth the cost? Pros vs. Cons. Forbes Advisor. 

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