COLORADO SPRINGS — In this 360° Perspective we're looking into whether a college education is really worth the cost. Tuition seems to constantly rise across the country and some say it's not worth the price.
A new report out of Colorado makes a strong argument that, in general, a college education is still a good investment. It found Bachelor's Degrees in STEM fields, science, technology, engineering and math are bringing in the biggest returns.
If you'd like to see the state's Return on Investment Report click here.
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, about a decade out of school, graduates earn a median income of $60,000. Those with a certificate earn $50,000. And Associate's Degree holders made $54,000 on average.
The head of the state's department of higher ed says academic credentials are vital. But says no matter if it's a four-year university, a community college, or trade school, the most important thing is to finish.
"When you think about a car, you might spend $30,000 to get a car. As soon as you drive it off the lot, it depreciates. With higher education, when you get that degree it actually appreciates," Dr. Angie Paccione said.
Still, she adds, "If you go three years and you have $20,000 of loans and you don't have a degree, then that's a real burden."
That burden is exactly why some are finding other options. 21 year old Hope Payne, said she couldn't afford the tens of thousands of dollars required for a degree she may not even need. She decided to go to a one year cosmetology school and walked away with no debt and a job offer before she even finished. Now she's about to buy a house with her husband and has no regrets.
"When I told people I was going to go to cosmetology school they were like, 'Well, why?' 'Well do you really think you'll be good at that?' 'Oh, you're just going to cut hair,'" Payne said.
Payne adds, "People kind of look down on you about it, but now the same people who said those things to me are like, 'Wow, I can't believe how good you're doing."
There are career paths that require a four year degree at the very least. That's the case for aspiring surgeon Ruby Odeymi. She's getting her undergraduate in nursing at Metro State with plans of going on to medical school.
For Odeymi, college is absolutely worth the sticker price because it's really the only way to the career she wants, "Anything that you do pertaining to the medical field, you're going to have to go to school."
"My mom always says short-term discomfort for long-term benefit, so yes, college is worth it," she added.
Another path to higher learning is the U.S. military. Army Recruiter Mitchelle Daughtery enlisted right out of high school and now he's showing high schoolers how to take the path. He says you get to learn more about what you want to do along the way, along with hands on life skills. And then the military will pay for your college.
Daughtery says if you already have debt they're also offering a $65,000 signing bonus to pay it off.
"The greatest thing about the Army, for me, is that I got both of my degrees and I haven't paid a cent," he said.
"I can see there are a lot of kids today where they don't know what they want to do next and they think college is their correct step, but it's not always the step for them," Daughtery said.
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