Is a College Education Worth It?

College educations are an enormous drain on family budgets so it’s a constant question for parents and students, is a college education worth it? By ‘it’ we mean worth the money, time and effort. Will you actually have a better life with a college degree? We’re going to delve into this debate.

Is it worth the money?

The average cost for a single year at a public university for an in-state student is $20,000. It’s more than $34,000 if you’re from out of state. These figures include tuition, room and board. Financial aid and scholarships are available for many students, however, that’s not something you can count on. Over 44 million Americans hold about $1.4 trillion in student debt. No wonder this is a debate that’s close to our hearts.1
College Board estimates the following annual budgets for undergraduate students in 2017/18. These numbers include transport and living expenses:
$17,580 (community college)
$25,290 (in-state students at a four-year public college)
$40,940 (out-of-state students at a four-year public college)
$50,900 (private non-profit four-year college)2

Remember these are averages and don’t take into account the large variation in tuition fees charged by the different institutions. Prestigious public universities may charge fees as high as the private sector. For example, the University of Michigan (one of the highest-ranked public US universities in the QS World University Rankings®) estimates a total of $62,176 in annual costs for out-of-state students in fall/winter 2018/19. This includes tuition, room and board, books, study supplies and miscellaneous items.3

Although these estimates are provided by the institutions, evidence suggests that potential students often overestimate the costs of higher education. Financial aid is very complex and it’s difficult to fully know how much you’ll have to pay.4

Then, what about the interests costs? How quickly will you be paying your loans? These are answers you won’t have until your future reveals itself.

How Much Will You Earn?

Is there are a direct correlation between your level of education and how much you earn? Yes. The average salary for someone educated to the level of a high school diploma earns a median weekly salary of $678 or $35,256 per year. Comparatively, the average salary for someone educated to the level of a Bachelor’s Degree earns a median weekly salary of $860 or $59,124 per year and it goes up the higher your level of education. There’s also a higher unemployment rate amongst those with lower education levels.5

Research indicates that it is financially worth it to complete college, based on a purely financial model where we take into account the earnings foregone when you’re studying and the cost of the degree versus your future earning estimates. This is true even when someone with a higher qualification is doing the same job as someone with a lower education.6

Is earning potential the measure of happiness?

Although many researchers have alluded to the fact that money doesn’t buy happiness, there is also evidence to suggest that it does if it’s spent wisely. (Boven and Gilovich, 2003).7 Philip Oreopoulos and Kjell G. Salvanes, “Priceless: The Non-pecuniary Benefits of Schooling.” Journal of Economic Perspectives 25, no.1 (Winter 2011): 159–84. [/note]

However, it’s not just the money that a college degree may buy you. Higher education will more than likely provide more opportunities to consider for your career path. Many of the higher level jobs that you can only access with a college degree offer less labor-intensive work and therefore offer more physical longevity for your career.

Even after considering family background and income, workers with more schooling hold jobs that offer a greater sense of accomplishment, more independence and opportunities for creativity, and more social interactions than jobs available to non-college graduates.8 College graduates tend to enjoy better health outcomes on average.9

Happiness is a complex issue and one that can only be truly measured by the individual although it’s worth restating that both financial and non-financial gains are more likely for you if you complete further education.

The Changing Landscape

The information presented above presents a fierce argument for the advent of college education. But what of the future colleges? Already college offerings have changed greatly since the 1970s with the introduction of for-profit institutions such as Xerox PARC. Some degrees offer much more practical offerings than others.

Staley and Trinkle (2011) talk of the landscape of higher education changing rapidly and disruptively. There’s a growing variety of higher education institutions and the cultural environment and the competitive ecosystem are influencing this change. The rate of change in industries may cause employers to take a more holistic view over what skills and characteristics their employees need. For example, where employers are looking for business graduates with high levels of communications skills, it might actually be best to look to the arts and humanities areas when communications skills is their most important attribute.

Globalisation is likely to play a bigger role as more international students are looking to Asia and other countries outside of the U.S. To combat these changes some universities are partnering with international institutions or setting up their own branch in those countries.

The emergence of an ‘invisible’ college may also have an impact on the traditional hierarchical education system. Knowledge networks that we have access to through the progression of technology will offer new ways for people to educate themselves and share that knowledge.

More than 60% of students enrolled in college are now over 25 years of age and more than 60% of students are now working full-time while pursuing their education.10
Where colleges used to treat these types of students as the exception the statistics now show they are to be taken much more seriously. This is a cultural shift that may affect the way colleges structure their delivery and messaging.

These are just a few of the possible trends that will affect higher education change, remembering that the rate of change today is faster than what we’ve been used to and is increasing. You only have to remember the overnight shutdown of the taxi industry to feel the ‘here one minute-gone the next’ possibilities of our future jobs.


The current research indicates that college is well worth the time, effort and money whether it be for financial or non-financial gain. Yet our times are changing and so is higher education structure and expectations. It will be very interesting to see how the landscape alters and how we make decisions with it. Research is one thing, but your experience and your opinion matters.

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Is Cyberbullying a Big Issue, Really?

Cyberbullying has become one of the major new issues affecting parenting of the decade, at least that’s what it feels like. Is the worrying really warranted? Many of the victims of cyberbullying are also victims of traditional bullying. Traditional bullying is something we’re all fully aware of and there are already ways in which these are being addressed in schools. However, one of the biggest issues around cyberbullying is that it mostly occurs outside of school.1
When it’s outside of school it’s out of the schools jurisdiction.

“Bullying occurs when an individual (or a group of people) repeatedly and intentionally cause harm to another person (or group of people), who is unable to avoid being targeted. Bullying can include:

  • Physical bullying (hitting, damaging property)
  • Verbal bullying (insults, teasing, intimidation)
  • Social bullying (lying, spreading rumors, excluding, damaging someone’s social reputation)
  • Cyberbullying (hurtful texts, posts, images or videos, imitating others online).”2

The Issue

Cyberbullying is unique in that the perpetrators have a level of anonymity about them. They can execute their bullying at any time of the day or night, and it’s usually outside of school hours. They can get to their victims in their own homes and cause more widespread public embarrassment. It tends to happen to slightly older children around 14 years of age or when they are given more access to electronic devices.

Cyberbullying is a problem for parents primarily because it’s new territory. There is no frame of reference to rely on because it isn’t something the older generations dealt with when they were growing up. Anything new is imminently more terrifying. What are the statistics? Are they really worth worrying about? What’s to be done about it?

Adults often think that there is an epidemic of cyberbullying and believe it is more common than data shows it to be. In fact, cyberbullying occurs much less frequently than traditional forms. Adults may also mistakenly believe that students are more upset by incidents of cyberbullying than students report being.3
Does this indicate that some of the education is getting through?

It is estimated that between 15% and 35% of young people have been victims of cyberbullying and between 10% and 20% of individuals admit to having cyber bullied others.4
Victims of cyberbullying are at greater risk of self-harm and suicidal behaviours than non-victims.

In the USA it is estimated that nearly 14.6 million youth may experience traditional bullying and 6.2 million may experience cyberbullying as either a victim or perpetrator. Both traditional bullying and cyberbullying have similar attributes and overlap considerably with as many as 88 % of victims (or perpetrators) of traditional bullying also being cyberbullying victims (or perpetrators).5

There’s a whole list of statistics around bullying in America here. The most encouraging statistics indicate that although bullying awareness is increasing there is a slight decline in the prevalence of bullying, but only slight. Many programs have been used within schools to prevent bullying but we really haven’t found ‘the cure’.

Why do kids bully?

Perhaps the best way to tackle this problem is to go directly to the source. Why do kids bully in the first place? Primarily it’s learned behavior. This may be learned behaviour from their parents, teachers or coaches, older siblings who were bullied themselves or other kids. Kids who bully are often craving attention and a feeling of empowerment. They may be feeling neglected at home or exposed to drug and alcohol problems on a regular basis. You can read more about why kids bully here.

The Symptoms

People who are involved in cyberbullying are over 85% more likely to be involved in traditional bullying.[noteJuvonen J, Gross EF. Extending the school grounds?–Bullying experiences in cyberspace. J Sch Health. 2008 Sep;78(9):496–505. doi: 10.1111/j.1746-1561.2008.00335.x. [PubMed] [Cross Ref] [Ref list][/note]
]Bullying can result in emotional distress, depression, anxiety, social isolation, low self-esteem, school avoidance, decreased academic achievement and substance abuse for the victim and the bully. These issues may continue into adulthood.
A very small number of bullied children might retaliate through extremely violent measures. In 12 of 15 school shooting cases in the 1990s, the shooters had a history of being bullied.6

Telltale signs of bullying include:

  • Changes in sleeping and eating patterns,
  • Frequent tears or anger
  • Feeling ill in the morning and not wanting to go to school
  • Changing friendship groups and
  • Unexplained bruises, cuts and scratches.

    What Should We Do About It?

The great thing about bullying, whether it be cyberbullying or traditional bullying, is that everyone can do something to help.


If you’re a bystander, you can be a friend to a victim. You can catch up with them after school, sit with them on the bus, ask them to join in your activity or whatever makes you comfortable. You can also stand up to the bully when you see it taking place. Let them know that what they’re doing is mean and should be stopped. You don’t need to do this publicly. Online you can direct message them. Be careful not to bully them back. If you’re worried about retaliation then tell an adult.

When you tell an adult you can include suspected bullying as well as the real thing but try to include as much detail as possible. Once you’ve told someone, if you think they haven’t done enough about it, follow up with another adult. Stamping out bullying is really important.

For the Victims

Preventive measures for potential victims include finding enjoyable activities that promote confidence and self-esteem, modeling how to treat others with kindness and respect, and encouraging people to seek positive friendships.

The Other Victims

We’ve talked about cyberbullying and bullying victims in schools throughout this article, however, bullying is an issue that may continue after school. It can happen in the workplace from co-workers as much as from bosses. It may also occur in other groups.

For the Parents

Parents can help by monitoring their children’s online and offline activities and social interactions, and encouraging their child to talk about any troubling experiences. If bullying has occurred, parents must be careful not to react with anger or take action without consulting their child. Young people often hide bullying from parents because they fear the parent will make things worse.7

It is helpful for parents to use the LATE strategy:

  1. Listen
  2. Acknowledge it hurts
  3. Talk about options
  4. End with encouragement.


It’s nice to know that cyberbullying may not be the epidemic that we thought it was, however, bullying is still an issue that has long-lasting effects for the victim, the bully, and friends and family. Cyberbullying is adding another layer of complexity to an already complex problem. The more troubling issue is that we don’t really know how to solve the problem. We have tried a number of school programs, but only moderate results have been achieved. We need you to help us solve this problem. Your voice matters.

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