Getting your money’s worth

Ngoc Vo
Opinion Editor

With the national controversy surrounding President Barack Obama’s plan for free community college and the statewide debate on the Alabama Accountability Act, government education funding is a complicated matter.

Troy University has been making efforts to minimize student debt and maximize return on investment, Chancellor Jack Hawkins said during his speech at the Donor and Recipient Brunch on Saturday.

However, what is the role of students in the financial question of paying for an education? What should high school graduates and current college students consider when they sign themselves for loan commitments when the state student debt average is more than $28,800?

I believe that this is a question of opportunity cost.

Students who stay in college, taking out loans and paying tuition, spend rather than make a considerable amount of money for four years. This may seem like a waste.

At the same time, students taking out loans to earn a degree that would make them employable in a competitive market could be creating an opportunity.

Although the rate of student loans is a debatable topic, I believe obtaining a post-secondary education, at a reasonable cost, is the path for people who will soon enter the workforce.

With the advancement of technology, many jobs are being replaced with artificial intelligence.

Santorini, a restaurant in San Francisco, has been using Rajat Suri’s Presto touch-screen tablet, which allows customers to look at menus, order and pay without interaction with a server.

Santorini is not the only establishment using devices and programs to do jobs that used to be done by human employees. Now Taco Bell, Domino’s and a variety of other stores have apps that offer the same services.

This trend will eventually take away many jobs which do not require a high level of academic education.

Moreover, the effects of technology are not limited to front-line workers or borderline minimum wage jobs. The Associated Press announced in January that it has “robot journalists” to write business reporting.

This development in the job market does not necessarily mean there are fewer jobs. It means available employment will require more skills and knowledge from the worker.

With the unemployment rate in the U.S. being 5.5 percent in February, I believe students should do all they can to better prepare themselves not only for getting a job, but also for competing for a good job.

In an article in The New York Times, Scott Sandage said “the best education is less a matter of getting into the best school than of making the best of wherever you go.”

I share this sentiment with Sandage, acknowledging a diminishing return of investment on paying for so-called top colleges.

College can happen outside of class, in the hallways and through discussion with contemporaries. College is about making the best of that investment through making connections with peers and professionals in the field, using the available resources, services and networking tools and enjoying competition with others to come out better.

I have heard many students complain about entry-level jobs with the requirement of two or more years of experience. College life offers just that. However, it is dependent upon each student to make the efforts to take internships, to be in leadership positions and to create projects for professional agencies as part of his or her portfolio.

Even though those experiences are not exclusive to college students, higher education provides an environment for students to thrive and take back what they have paid for and to make themselves competitive in today’s market.

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