For Ramona high school seniors who graduate this week, one thing is clear: whether you’re off to college or off to work in California, the demand for enrollment and employment has never been more fierce. With education cutbacks and the current unemployment rate at over 9 percent, the demand for two-year schools has greatly increased. Along with the increased demand, most two-year and four-year colleges have had to reduce the number of classes available, making it even more difficult for those who want to attend (and graduate on time). For example, our local San Diego State University received over 55,000 applications for enrollment for just 6,900 spaces. Community colleges have been hit even harder because of the fact they have always been underfunded and now will be forced to provide even more with less as enrollment is expected to increase by as much as 33 percent in the coming year. Fees and tuition have been raised and at the same time financial aid for those who qualify will be reduced.
While price tags for some colleges can be in excess of $35,000 per year, (which accounts for only about 9 percent of college students), most four-year colleges or universities have tuition and fees under $9,000 per year. And according to a 2007 College Board Study, Education Pays, graduates with a bachelor’s degree earn over 60 percent more than those with only a high school diploma. So over a lifetime of employment, the gap in earning potential is more than $800,000, which makes a college education (providing you graduate) a darn good investment.
So congratulations to those of you off to college, but for those of you who have elected to go to work instead because of the costs, I urge you to utilize all of the resources available at the various colleges and universities and never give up the chance of a higher level of learning. The education process is more than just a degree. It is a life learning experience that everyone should have the opportunity to have.