The many benefits of earning a college degree

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While college can bring some of the best years of one’s life, it also comes with some of the most stressful times one will probably ever encounter. College is overpriced, challenging and sometimes tedious, but the amount of perks that come with a higher education can make it all worth while.

Preparing one for the “real world” and the all the jobs that might interest them only begin to account for the benefits prospective students gain from going to college. Getting a degree will better secure your upper-hand in the future career search.

Earning a degree will make one more attractive to employers compared to those without a college education. Statistics from the U.S Census Bureau report that those with a bachelor’s degree have a median annual earning nearly twice as much as those with only a high school diploma. ($42,783 vs. $21,569) This is a pretty significant difference, while education level is the biggest factor in determining earning potential.

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Photo credit: Jian Bautista

Besides earning more money and having more job opportunities, the wisdom you gain from a college education is an applicable trait that you can apply to any life situation, work-related or not.

Investing in a college education is sometimes criticized due to the growing tuition costs, and the debt that many millennials take on in pursuing their chosen degree.

UAA Multicultural Center director Andre Thorn, who recently received a Ph.D. in education leadership and policy analysis, believes that education is the most powerful weapon.

“A college degree is important to earn because it demonstrates that you are trainable and have the discipline and determination to complete the task at hand. You learn so many concepts on the journey towards the degree that many of the courses and the content can be transferable in other work, educational or relationship situations. This is the value of a well-rounded education,” Thorn said.

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Thorn is a first-generation college student who grew up in the inner-city of Las Vegas with a single mother, who inspired him to go to college and earn a degree.

“The odds were against me, but I felt that if I could earn a degree, I could leverage that to overcome my situational reality. Being the first in my family to go to college, my mother had to sacrifice a lot and it wasn’t easy,” Thorn said. “But with time, studying and learning from my failures, I persisted until I got the degree. It was a significantly proud moment for me to see the look in my mother’s eyes when I brought the degree home and gave it to her. I am using the degree, and the two others I have achieved, to change the world in my own way.”

Thorn is proud to share his accomplishments and motivate those with similar backgrounds to pursue a degree even if it seems unattainable.

“Besides the obvious benefits of increased opportunities and higher salaries that a degree affords you, I get to serve as an example for my family and friends. I still get calls from friends and family across the country, asking me questions about ‘how do I….’ ‘what should I do to….’ Therefore, because I have multiple degrees, and work at a college campus, I get to serve as a resource for my family, friends and the community. What can be greater than that?” Thorn said.

Josh Edge, who graduated from UAA in 2010 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and public communications, has now worked for Alaska Public Media for about six and a half years. Edge believes that getting a college degree is essential in almost any career path.

“Unless someone opts to go into the military or to a trade school, a college degree of some kind is essentially a requirement for most careers in today’s job market. Finding a job can be challenging, but I think it only gets more competitive as you get further along in your career. As common as college degrees are now, without one, you’re at a distinct disadvantage with prospective employers. Sometimes even a bachelor’s might not be enough,” Edge said.

Edge revealed that he owes a lot of his success to getting involved on campus while in school, including working at The Northern Light.

“Immediately after high school, I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life, and college just seemed like a natural next step to take in order to figure that out. While my first two or three years were spent without much focus, I was at least finding things I knew I wanted to do for a living. Eventually, after I started working at The Northern Light, I discovered that I really enjoyed journalism and really excelled at it, so that’s what I ran with. And so far, it’s worked out very well and has led my career in some pleasant, but unexpected directions,” Edge said.

Jonathon Taylor, a UAA alumni, who graduated with a political science degree, is now the deputy press secretary for Governor Bill Walker. Taylor considers obtaining a degree to be a challenging but important accomplishment that speaks volumes for your character.

“For me, it was kind of assumed that I would go to college and get a degree. I was inspired to take on a political science degree because of my interest in politics and it’s application in the real world,” Taylor said. “There are several benefits that come with getting a college education and degree. First, you have the personal satisfaction of making such an accomplishment. Graduating from college isn’t easy, and graduates deserve serious praise for pulling through. Next, you gain important connections and build relationships. Some of the best relationships and friendships I’ve made have been with students, staff, faculty and administrators that I interacted with almost daily. Those are the folks who will be references for you and write letters of recommendation for you, which can help you land jobs and get into graduate school.”

Whether college may or may not be for some, the fortune gained through higher education may just mean more than earning an academic degree.