Income statistics culled from U.S. Census data show that a four-year college degree is worth on average $15,000 more per year than a high school diploma. Between 2004 and 2005, the average annual salary for wage earners with a four-year degree increased $3,000 a year to $54,500. In comparison, the income for wage earners with a high school diploma increased less than $1,000 and remains at $29,000.
We used the impact of these statistics to illustrate the incentive that drives some people to seek out diploma mills. Diploma mills market “life experience” degrees that persuade people that they can convert professional experience to something measurable, akin to college credits. In turn, bogus degree boards “award” varying levels of degrees in all types of majors for little work, but in return for hefty “tuition” fees. If it’s that easy to get a college degree, why bother studying and applying yourself academically?
Truth is, list a bogus degree on your resume and you’ll likely not be hired for that new job for which you’ve applied, or you’ll be fired from your current job.
Really, the value is not so much in the degree, since some degrees can be empty and meaningless, but in the motivation, the drive, and the accomplishment. With these personal attributes you can accomplish anything. When you take the time and expend the energy to get a real college degree, you earn confidence and prove you’ve got the right stuff.
Want to really translate a college degree into an astounding entry-level income? CNN Money answers the question, “What are the hottest college majors?” The list is engineering-heavy with emphasis on chemical and software engineers; and physical therapists and accountants. The PT and accounting majors make sense what with an exploding Baby Boom generation. Americans are active, living longer, and they have money. Any of the above majors may offer starting salaries no less than $60,000 and up to $90,000 for top-level grads in engineering.
Where money paralyzes you, there are options for scholarships and grants that award monetary gifts. The federal government, some states, and many private lenders package long-term, low interest student loans that make it possible for you to afford college. Nobody can afford college tuition. Everyone goes through the financial aid process and most get tidy sums of assistance.
Community colleges and technical programs offer targeted degree programs for a fraction of the cost of a private college. Students with a clear-cut career in mind such as a healthcare job or one in a technical field are very well-suited to a community college environment. Jobs come quickly after graduation and learning emphasizes a more practical pedagogy versus academic.
If time is your enemy, there are plenty of legitimate and reputable online degree programs designed with a working adult in mind. Full-time distance learning colleges and even traditional colleges offer online options. But remember, this is also the domain of low-quality diploma mills. Their ads are all over the Internet, mixed in amongst reputable colleges. Bookmark the Oregon Office of Degree Authorization’s list of unaccredited colleges and refer to it over and over while you search for an online degree program.
Urging students to go to college in some cases is just not enough. A USA Today story uncovers the realities of a college education for some kids. Only “one in 17 young people, from the nation’s poorest families” goes to college. And those are typically arriving academically short-changed from their lackluster high school regime that held little hope for their academic success.
Expectations have risen sharply—kids actually have bought the pitch that college is within reach; it’s the rest of the educational machinery about them that has fallen behind. Academics are lagging, and for poor kids, families and friends don’t buy into the college dream.