Kansas City IMC : http://kcindymedia.org/newswire/display/72896/index.php
Kansas City IMC

Commentary :: Poverty

College Dilemma

Trying to decide whether college will pay off is becoming more costly by the year.
Sitting in his small apartment preparing for finals in his third semester at Ozark Technical Community College, Ronnie Bowling looks back in wonder at how much his life has changed in the past two years.
Only 24-months-ago Bowling was pushing carts and working produce at the local grocery store in the small town of Bloomfield, Missouri making just below $6.00 an hour while living with his parents in the same small room he has had since he was in elementary school.
“At the time I didn’t know if things were ever going to change,” Bowling said. “Nowhere that paid a decent wage wanted to hire a kid just out of high school with no experience.”
So after two years at a low-income job, Bowling packed his bags for college, traveling over 200 miles west after gaining admission to OTC.
“It was the scariest decision I had ever made but I knew I needed a change,” Bowling said. “Looking back I can’t believe I didn’t make the decision sooner.”
Young adults all over the country are faced with the same question as Ronnie. That question being whether investing in higher education is worth it.
The problem with this question is calculating all the variables such as the money you could have made working instead of attending college plus the actual cost of the college itself.
That decision is growing more expensive by the year as state funding to colleges in many states declines while tuition continues to increase. For students with less than stellar high school records that can’t get scholarships or grants sometimes the financial load is just too much to bear.
For people from low-income families such as Ronnie, the decision can be even harder.
“Just paying my car payment every month was a challenge,” Bowling said. “Leaving home and adding rent and tuition on to my load just wasn’t possible.”
Like most service industry jobs in his area, Ronnie’s job started at minimum wage which is $5.15 an hour. Pulling in just a little over $200 a week Ronnie realized he had to make a change.
“When a cheap apartment runs around $350 a month not including utilities, moving out on my own wasn’t even and option,” Bowling said. “After being at a job for two years and still making less than six dollars-an-hour I had to do something.”
Fortunately for Ronnie, his parents were willing to help him with expenses enabling him financially to enroll at Ozark Technical Community College. With an associate degree Ronnie will have potentially increased his total lifetime earnings by an average of nearly $300,000.
Ronnie’s problem of finding a livable wage without higher education is a common one in America. Unfortunately, this problem doesn’t seem to be getting any better.
While our country seems to be becoming more specialized by the year, the opportunities for those unwilling to seek training are growing smaller. For those applicants less educated and non-specialized, the ceiling for their career is falling alarmingly fast.
Like Ronnie, Luke Hogan put his college dreams on hold in pursuit of employment in hopes of saving up money for college. Unlike Ronnie, however, Luke was able to secure a relatively high paying job right out of high school at the local ice cream plant.
Starting at $9.00an-hour, Luke saw his pay substantially increase in the same time span Ronnie saw his at a near stand still. Within 18 months, Luke had bumped up his pay to slightly over $14.00 an-hour.
“I know in the long-run a college degree will make me more money,” Luke said. “But giving up such a high paying job isn’t easy.”
While Ronnie and Luke started out in the same situation, education and location (each lived about 10 miles apart) there results entering the job market were near opposites.
Where Luke increased his pay five dollar-an-hour in 18 months, in the same span Ronnie saw only a little under a dollar-an-hour increase.
Even within an industry once a haven for those looking to make good money quick without specialization, the advancement opportunities are drying up while the amount of people depending on those jobs isn’t.
Where Luke a decade ago may have had a chance to at upper management down the probably can’t expect that now as factories like his seek applicants with business degree for those position.
This is especially true in small-town America where unemployment’s high and opportunities are low allowing businesses to pay as little as they see fit for entry level jobs without much of a drop off in demand.
So while Ronnie’s opportunity cost are presently much lower, both have to look at the big picture. Would a few years of schooling increase enough what I’ll make over my entire lifetime?
This is a decision that faces every young adult is growing more important by the year with the gap between those with higher education and those without getting bigger by the year.
With major economic shifts in the retail and manufacturing sectors, the number of potential entry level jobs is dwindling. Many factories and manufacturers that used to promote from within now require certain degrees to obtain high level jobs within the company.
This kind of shift may make advancement opportunities for employees like look become very slim. Future earning must be included in the decision making process.
For the average male, the jump from what they would make with a high school diploma to a bachelor’s is a $24,000 per-year pay increase. This makes the concept of delayed gratification very important.
So while Luke lucked out in receiving a high-paying entry level job, the chance of climbing the ladder may not be what it once was.
Fortunately for those who don’t feel like attending four-year or community colleges, there is an ever increasing amount of specialization technical schools to attend.
Unlike colleges that take several years to complete, many technical schools can be completed in as little as six months to a year. These types of schools cover a broad range of interests such as certificates in auto mechanics, construction management to even film schools.
So while not all high school graduates are cut out for college, it would be wise to invest in some type of specialization. These types of schools are where Luke found a happy medium.
Rather than quit his job and lose the time invested with the company, Luke decided to attend Metro Area Business College in a town that’s only a thirty minute. This allows him to keep his job and complete a certificate in 12 months.
So why it may be easier for someone like Ronnie to uproot and pursue a degree, a job, or family doesn’t necessarily prohibit you from higher learning.
In the end while both Ronnie and Luke took very different routes to higher learning, each realized it was worth the risk in the pursuit of better employment.
“If I didn’t go to college I would probably still be living with my parents bagging groceries,” Ronnie said. “That’s fine for awhile but sooner or later you have to take a step up in life and this degree will help.”
Luke shared those sentiments, “I’m making good money now, but I don’t want to be boxing ice cream for the rest of my life,” Luke said “If I finish this degree maybe I can work my way to an office job where I don’t have to tear my body up.”
Of course even though Luke made substantially more than Ronnie, when it came time to pay for college both relied heavily on government loans.
Fortunately for those out there in the same position as Luke and Ronnie, while the decision to go to college may be getting tougher, finding ways to finance it isn’t. In today’s age of financing college students have found many resourceful ways to pay the bills.
If unable to get a grants or scholarships many students rely on government subsidized loans. If unable to obtain these, more desperate students have been known to seek private financing at high interest rates or simply put their tuition on credit cards.
While the latter two are much quicker and easier to obtain than the other methods, keep in mind interest rates going that way can be more than double that of subsidized loans.
For those still not convinced higher education is for them there is a bit of recent bright new. On the past election ballot Missourians voted to increase minimum wage effective next year from $5.15 to $6.50.
This increase will help soften the blow of cost of living and inflation increases since the last minimum wage increase nearly a decade ago while effectively creeping up the minimum wage a little farther past the poverty line.
But while increases in the minimum wage help soften the initial blow of low-income families entering the job market it doesn’t address the underlying problem of getting these workers such as the ones in the service industry the skills to break out of the income cellar.
One step businesses in the economy are taking to help bridge the gap is offering to cover the cost of classes taken as long the student remains an employee of the company. Briggs and Stratton is one of the numerous factories using this policy which can help encourage the growth of promoting from within a company.
So while the economy has taken steps in the right direction to alleviate this wage discrepancy problem, recent high school graduates like Ronnie and Luke might now more than ever want to consider post-high school training if they want to rise the company ladder.

Add a new comment
Author Anonymous Poster
  Create a new account
Text Format


Anti-spam Enter the following number into the box:
To add more detailed comments, or to upload files, see the full comment form.


Re: College Dilemma

Is this an original for this site or does it have a source?

Re: Re: College Dilemma

It's an original I wrote for my journalism class.


Account Login

From the Radicalendar

No events for this day.

view calendar week
add an event

This site made manifest by dadaIMC software

Page executed in 0.134159088135 seconds.
Loaded 61/73 class files. Read 23 objects from the database. Queried the database 10 times. Served 3 files from the cache.