College May not be Worth it Anymore by Ellen Ruppel Shell

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Updated: Mar 14, 2023
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Since it is believed that a college degree would help in the job market, which in average it does, many Americans have paid heavily for the price of a higher education. “”By last summer, Americans owed more than $1.3 trillion in student loans, more than two and a half times what they owed a decade earlier”” (Shell, 2018). This causes Shell to ask the question, if higher education offers that help or if the people who earn the degrees are positioned to get those higher paying jobs? Because it is widely promoted that college helps those less fortunate, many people do not realize that people of color typically earn less than white people, or that low-income students are more likely to dropout than wealthier students, I believe that Shell is trying to show how covert racism plays a part in education and jobs.

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As stated in Shell’s article, people who drop out of college earn a slight amount more than those who only have a high school diploma. However, that slight advantage is not enough to cover most peoples student debts. For those people of color it is even worse, with African Americans college dropouts earning less than white high school graduates. Our nation has a history of paying people of color less than a white man or woman. From recent studies it is shown that black men earn 75%, hispanic men earn 69% compared to that of a white or asian man of 117% in hourly earnings, and black women earn 65%,hispanic women earn 58% compared to a white woman’s hourly earnings of 82% and an asian woman’s earnings of 87%(Patten 2018). The records show that people of color have always been earning less than white Americans.

However, according to Shell, the select few of minority students who go to an elite college do get an advantage rather than those who go to a nonselective college. Black and Hispanic students, nonetheless, are less likely to attend any elite colleges compared to the number of white or asian Americans. And according to Shell’s article, even students from wealthy black and hispanic families have a lower chance of attending an elite college compared to students from middle class families. For those students born into middle class families, college sounds like a great investment, but for lower class students it is not the same idea. Shell includes studies revealing that poor born college graduates tend to not make any more than those born in a middle class family with a high school degree. From my own personal observations, I found this to be very true. I was born into a low income family living in the “”ghetto””, the only person to graduate from college was my aunt back in May of 2016. She had gotten a degree in social work but had never used it and continues to look for jobs in her field of study. For now, she continues to work a simple desk job that requires nothing related to her social work degree. My mom had one year of college education, but that did not help with any since she worked at a factory for 17 years until they laid her off for an injury. She did not have the time or money to attend college again so she took a certificate program for business administration, which she does use with her new desk job, but gets paid the same amount as those with no certificate or degree. In my opinion, it is not a fact of where the degree comes from it is the fact that those of us born into lower income households do not get the same access to higher paying jobs, like those born into middle or higher class families.

“”According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, fewer than 20 percent of American jobs actually require a bachelor’s degree”” (Shell 2018). Getting a higher education or a degree is very desirable, especially for those born in lower class families. Going to college was painted to seem as a lifeboat for many of us born poor. We were told that it would give us more opportunities and get us a great paying job and we would be able to afford our own house and be able to provide for our families in ways our poor parents could not. As we experience college and pay for the expenses it increasingly gets harder and harder to get by. Although we are provided with financial aid to cover tuition and maybe some books, it does not account for the personal issues and financial problems that arise. With people being cut from work, getting injured or sick, or simply not making enough it makes it less desirable to go off to college and bring in more debt to the family. Dropping out of college is a typical thing I see in my neighborhood, usually because the cost was too much and they now need to help with expenses. College expenses makes it harder for poor born students to stay in college than those born in middle class families.

Regardless of the slight advantage given to those of us born poor, those born into middle class families still get the advantage of getting paid more than poor born. The access middle class and higher class families have leads to the huge gap of pay between whites, blacks, hispanics, asians, etc. Class and race play a huge role in the way many of us view college.

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College May Not Be Worth It Anymore By Ellen Ruppel Shell. (2020, Feb 03). Retrieved from