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College Affordability

Is a College Degree Still Necessary in Today’s Economy?

Photo: Courtesy of Cole Keister

The value of a college education has been vigorously called into question, at least in recent years. But the fact remains that the value of higher education needs to be nurtured by everyone, not just academics, and especially those in the most need of the experience and benefits it confers — potential adult learners.   

It makes a difference

We live and operate in a global environment, regardless of where we live and what we do. The rules of the game have been set for us, but how well we are prepared for that game is up to us. The benefits of higher education are one of the key ways to improve our chances of success; however, the advantage is not readily available to many, especially the adult learner. 

The adult learner experiences a host of challenges in returning to the campus or virtual classroom settings, including time management, family obligations, work obligations, and not to mention the appearance of insurmountable challenges of completing the degree program. On top of all these the adult learner is told that the degree has little value, and he or she is likely to consider skipping it altogether. But that would be a mistake.

A personal story

I have been privileged enough to have participated in the education of thousands of adult learners over nearly two decades, on campus and online, in the state university system, private colleges, and for-profit universities. The common variable that binds each of these is the adult learners’ desire to learn and to be able to provide for themselves and for their families, both now and in the future.

Granted, the academic experience is valorized, not by the pundits, but by the adult learners, and how much they value the experience is up to them. Case in point: Last month, our youngest son graduated college with his associate’s degree, a proud moment for parents and students alike.

But it was there that I noticed something that I have seen time and again: While the younger graduates were celebratory and ecstatic, the older or mature graduates walked across the stage with both smiles and tears in their eyes. They know that, though nothing is guaranteed, they are still better prepared to enhance their current opportunities for themselves and their families. They know the obstacles that they had to overcome to experience this moment of pride and happiness. It was the tears that, to me, demonstrated how much the adult learner clearly values his or her education. I want to see a pundit to attempt to contradict that with any kind of valid argument or theory. 

One final word

I have one parting question for consideration and reflection. To the pundits professing that college degrees for adults are unnecessary and passé, the breeders of misinformation and fear in the potential, possibly uncertain, adult learners, I ask, how many of you have your college degrees? Why was it necessary or good enough for you but not for the adult learners now? What is the purpose of such a pessimistic message?

I will leave that to you to draw your own conclusion. Being an adult learner myself, having earned a doctorate, yet still continuing my own academic journey for a second master’s degree, the sense of accomplishment, fulfillment, and pride is well-worth the journey. Leave the negativity and pundits in the rearview mirror; focus on the future with your college degree firmly in hand. 

Dr. R. Lee Viar IV, Ph.D., MBA, CPI, President, ANTSHE, [email protected]

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