Weighing the cost of education

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Graphic by Suzanna Creasey

The average cost of four years at a public university nowadays is about the same as an all-electric Tesla, a water jet pack or 400,000 pounds of gummy bears. It’s roughly $100,000 that can be used in a lot of different ways. College is meant to provide us with an opportunity to advance in our respective fields of academic interest. We meet like-minded contemporaries in our mutual pursuit of higher education, we learn how to engage in stimulating discourse about our world and we get an idea of what life will be like once we are independent and cut loose into the workforce. An undergraduate education is expensive and has become more so in recent years, but you get your money’s worth if you feel adequately prepared for employment when the four years are up. According to a 2013 analysis of Labor Department statistics by the Economic Policy Institute in Washington, Americans with bachelor’s degrees earn an average of 98 percent more per hour than those without a degree. Evidently, the benefits — if you work to achieve them — outweigh the cost. That being said, college is not to be taken lightly. It is each enrolled student’s responsibility to make college worth the exorbitant cost. If you pay thirty thousand dollars per year to hoist beer kegs around campus parties and wake up with a hangover at noon, you’re not getting what you’re paying for. If you are more interested in the college experience than college academics, keep in mind it’s one heck of a cost for new friends and Greek life. And if you’re paying to get an education at a prestigious university only to blow off lectures and haphazardly scrape by with the half-hearted effort of a night-before studying cram, then the cost exceeds the value of what you’re getting. Taking college seriously doesn’t mean you can’t have fun, but the central goals remain the same: to work diligently on your chosen subject, to learn about yourself and to prepare for adult life both academically and socially. Or you can just buy 400,000 pounds of gummy bears.

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Weighing the cost of education