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The Pros and Cons of Higher Education

Pros and cons of higher education

Higher education is an investment. But unlike the stock market or real estate, a degree can offer a return that goes beyond dollars and cents.

The value of higher education is immense and grows more valuable as the job market continues to value knowledge. No matter how you assess the pros and cons of higher education, the pros always outweigh the cons. 

So how can you tell if higher education is for you? Consider the risks and benefits. 


Higher Earnings

A college degree (or any advanced learning beyond high school) can accelerate your earning power. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2021, bachelor’s degree holders had median weekly earnings of $1,334, compared to $899 for people who dropped out of college and $809 for people with only a high school diploma. Compared to someone who leaves college, that adds up to $22,620 more in median annual earnings — meaning $678,000 over a 30-year career. 

But raw earnings don’t capture the full picture. The more you earn, the more you can invest. So college graduates who set aside savings put their money to work, steadily building a nest egg. And future earnings tend to build upon prior earnings, such that your high wage today will result in larger raises over time. 

Still, there are no guarantees that you’ll earn significantly more. Your earnings depend a little on luck and a lot on which field you choose and how hard you work. Going into school with a clear vision for the future and a detailed understanding of typical earnings in your field can help you decide on the right degree program. 

More Job Opportunities

Adults who return to school don’t just earn more. They also have more job opportunities. This decreases their unemployment rate and offers additional security during a recession or economic downturn, lending flexibility to your career trajectory. Don’t like your current job? Try shifting to consulting or another industry. Sick of working for someone else? A college degree can improve your chances of success as an entrepreneur. 

However, not every degree program increases job opportunities. Ensure you’re on track for the life you desire by choosing one of these recession-proof careers

A Sense of Accomplishment

Whether you’ve never been to college or you started but weren’t able to finish, that degree can be a powerful motivator. The sense of accomplishment is real, and the benefits include: 

  • Showing your children that it’s never too late to reshape your life. 
  • Modeling a growth mindset and instilling the value of education in your kids.
  • Helping you assert yourself with confidence at work. 

Recognition of Worth 

The Great Resignation was an awakening for many workers who finally realized the value of their labor and for employers who don’t treat their workers well. 

Returning to college to complete your degree may help you offer greater value in the workplace. Earning a degree can also increase your sense of accomplishment and confidence. Knowing that worth can allow you to negotiate for higher wages, better treatment, more autonomy and improved benefits. 

For unfair bosses, this might be a drawback because their workers will demand more. But it’s a massive benefit for everyone else, including businesses that gain access to stronger, more effective employees.

Your first decision in the game of college—should you take an online or  in-person degree program? Use this infographic to check out each path before  you commit.


Startup Investment 

Like all investments, college costs money. However, it’s more affordable than investing in real estate and less risky than get-rich-quick schemes. You’ll need to come up with the money, and this may mean taking on debt, applying for grants, dipping into personal savings, seeking a scholarship or maybe all of the above. 

But college almost inevitably opens up new career doors if you finish. It helps you master new skills, including soft interpersonal skills. It allows you to build a professional network, especially if you take advantage of SNU’s cohort learning model. And the long-time boost in earnings can help you repay any debt you take on to fund school. 

What about other expenses? You may need to reduce your hours at work or pay for additional childcare. Perhaps you’ll need a cleaning service to help you keep on top of things at home or a dog walker because you’re gone more often. Although these can certainly increase the total cost of school, they are short-term expenses. Moreover, you can use student aid to pay for all the expenses of attending school. So talk to a financial aid counselor and seek the award that will fully empower you to attend school while meeting your basic needs. 


You likely already have a busy, stressful life. Attending college can add to the load. You’ll need to take time away from your family and job, and you’ll likely face some challenges along the way, such as taking a difficult class, getting transfer credit or graduating on time. 

Choose a school that supports you as a whole person — not just as a learner — and the stress will feel more manageable. SNU offers a chaplain, counseling services and an innovative VETS Center to help soldiers adjust to civilian life. We also help ease the burden by offering prior learning credits and enhanced advanced standing that translate your valuable life and work experience into real college credits, moving you closer to a degree from the outset.

The stress is temporary. Over the long term, the right degree can relieve stress. You may earn more, gain access to a better neighborhood and additional job benefits, enjoy a rewarding work environment and have more job security. So as you pursue your degree, consider that the temporary stress is the stress of accomplishment and that a better life awaits on the other side. 

Online learning can also help lighten the load by reducing commute time and empowering you to attend school on your own schedule. SNU students can choose between an online degree program or in-person classes for just one night per week. 

It’s never too late to pursue a high-quality education after school. SNU helps learners from all walks of life get back into school, finish quickly and graduate with the skills they need to thrive. We can help you choose the right educational format and program for you. To learn more, check out our free guide, “Choose Your Path: Online vs. On-Campus Education.” 


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