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OPINION: Education pays off, shoot straight for a four-year university

Associate's degrees from even the highest paying two year colleges barely surpass the average salary from a bachelor’s degree.
Associate’s degrees from even the highest paying two year colleges barely surpass the average salary from a bachelor’s degree.

By Albert Hu,
BlueDevilHUB.com Editor–

With a new semester comes a clean slate, a fresh opportunity to achieve the grade you’ve always been striving for. And rightfully so. As a means to garner acceptance to your preferred four-year university, it’s pragmatic in the long term to choose hitting the textbooks in favor of that Sunday night party. Why? Simple economics— those who graduate from four year universities earn more money than less-educated peers.

Across the board, college graduates with a bachelor’s degree make a sizable chunk more than those with a lesser degree. A nationally representative survey done by the Pew Research Center in 2014 indicates that median earnings for fresh college graduates with a bachelor’s have steadily increased from $38,833 in 1965 to $45,500 in 2013; compared to decreasing earnings for those with an associate’s, from $33,655 in 1965 to a meager $30,000 in 2013.

In fact, those with an associate’s now only make barely more than an individual with only a high school diploma ($28,000 in 2013). This trend indicates that as time goes on, a degree from a four-year university will become a better and better investment; as associate degrees continue to devalue.

The benefits to attending a four year university grow proportionally to the prestige of the university. According to interviews conducted by Assistant Professor at Northwestern University Lauren Rivera and research from The Chronicle of Higher Education, the best and highest paying businesses only hire from top tier schools; e.g. Harvard, Stanford, Yale, or Princeton. If an applicant is from another “lower tier” school, their application won’t even be read.

Furthermore, prestigious universities offer resources that other schools often don’t have. Davis High alumnus and Harvard student Andrés de Loera-Brust explains, “Harvard is a very old, rich and prominent school. What that means is that any academic resource you need is provided to you.” In addition, top ranked universities like Harvard allow students to be mentored by “some of the best minds in the world” (such as Nobel Peace Prize winners), and “learn next to people that are very impressive,” de Loera-Brust said.

In terms of attending a community college and then transferring to a four year university, it’s a risky bet. According to a study by Columbia University’s Community College Research Center, “while 81 percent of entering community college students indicate they want to earn a bachelor’s degree or higher, only 33 percent of entering students actually transfer to a four-year institution within six years.”This could happen for a variety of different reasons. Students could lose motivation to continue their education, or not even meet the requirements for transferring.

Moreover, attending a four year university right off the bat allows for an additional two years for students to make meaningful connections with professors, along with increased social opportunities in dorms; allowing one to make friends that could eventually turn into business partners. This was the case with Mark Zuckerberg and Eduardo Saverin with the founding of Facebook.

According to Sacramento City student Job Lau, these tight knit relationships are harder to make at community college. “Most people just leave [and go home] after class is over, so it’s harder to make friends or interact with others,” Lau said.

Proponents of going to community college often cite the fact that its tuition is cheaper, thereby saving students money. However, while community college may be cheaper in the short term, attending a four year university out of high school allows students to access financial aid and scholarships, which are often not available to transferring students. Over the course of four years, these factors make the cost of attending a university for four years quite reasonable, considering the extra opportunities offered.

Simply put, if you’re looking to make more money as an adult or to maximize your opportunities, your chances are best if you attend the highest ranked four year university you can; right out of high school. So ditch the parties, and work for those A’s— you will thank yourself later.

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