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Bellarmine Magazine: new research shows that college is awesome

Apr 22, 2013

Note: This is the editor's letter in the Spring 2013 issue of Bellarmine Magazine, available online. What's your take on the awesomeness of college, in terms of value, affordability or character development? Send us a letter to the editor.

by Jim Welp, '81
Editor-in-chief, Bellarmine Magazine

There's been a lot of debate in the media lately about the value of a college education. It's no secret that jobs are hard to come by for young people and that college is expensive. Some pundits have even gone so far as to claim that a college degree might be less than totally awesome. A new study shows, however, that these pundits are "idiots." What's more, the study goes on to show that college is both awesome and aMAZing.

Before I get into the hard data, it's important to step back and look at some of the negative claims about higher education being tossed around in the media, often by people who have actual college degrees themselves and, frankly, should know better.

Some naysayers are citing the weak job market as evidence that a college education is a bad investment. The cost of education and the debt incurred by many students is often a tough mountain to climb when high-paying jobs aren't readily available.

Countering that argument is an even higher mountain of evidence, including a recent study by the Pew Charitable Trusts showing that for young Americans, the drop in employment and income during the recession was much harder on people who lacked a college degree. Those with a bachelor's degree weathered the downturn better than those with an associate's degree.

Those with a high-school diploma fared even worse, with a staggering 53 percent unemployment rate. (To read about the study in an article not written by a biased smart aleck, read "Benefits of College Degree in Recession are Outlined" in The New York Times.) The bottom line: The key to opportunity and social mobility is still a college degree.

So I decided to do some scientific research of my own, which consisted of walking up to random students on campus and asking them if they thought college was A) a risky investment amid a tough job market, or B) awesome. The results are in, and 100 percent said college was B) awesome. Full disclosure: Some also said, C) Do you know anybody who's hiring?

Obviously, it's no laughing matter when young people can't find jobs. And taking on a lot of debt is also a tough way to start a career. But college students from Allen Hall to Timbuktu know what the pundits don't: Better, more rewarding jobs at better pay go to people with college degrees. What surprised me was that not a single student thought money was the point. I think one young man I spoke with put it best: "When I came to Bellarmine, I was a kid. Bellarmine is where I grew up. College is the link between being a kid and being an adult. I wouldn't trade it for anything." He thinks he and his parents made an awesome investment, and so do I.