Many of the articles I have written for School of Doubt focus on the costs and benefits of a college education, with the focus on the value of such an education. It used to be a high school diploma was enough to get gainful employment in a decent job that could support a family. Of course it used to be one income was indeed enough to do the same.
Now, two income households are the norm, and many careers require a college degree at the entry level. The people who want to get into those careers just want to get the piece of paper that will allow them in, so they can survive. A large proportion of college students are non-traditional, being older than the 19-21 year old image of the typical college student.
Colleges though are still focused on providing a broader education for their students, as is traditional (which might need re-thinking…). There are many good reasons for that, but it does create a tension for most people who have jobs and a family (either older parents and/or kids of their own). Many students who are putting in 40 hours a week on their job to pay for college just don’t have the time to commit to doing high quality work for college. Some accept that; others believe concessions should be made for their busy lives.
I worked as an undergraduate (and as a graduate student). I didn’t expect though that my job should be prioritized over my education. However, I didn’t have a family nor had I expected to start one during that time. I was the quintessential college student, though I was paying my own way by working part-time typical college jobs and taking out loans. However the ability to do that is pretty much gone.
The “balance” of working, taking care of family, and being a full-time student (often needed to qualify for loans), is simply too demanding to allow for quality performance in those areas. Recently news outlets covered Germany eliminating tuition costs and providing assistance to students to help with living expenses. This affects tax rates, but could allow more people to pursue higher education and focus on that education rather than struggling to meet all their obligations.
Perhaps we could stop looking at education as a means to an end, but as a worthwhile pursuit for its own ends, if we weren’t worried about paying the mortgage, feeding and clothing the kids, covering health costs, etc.