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Is College Worth It? [SERIES]

This is the fifth and final segment of a week-long series on higher education costs in New Jersey. Read the entire series here.

Over the past few days, we looked at the ever-rising costs of earning a college degree, the alternatives to four years at school and the intangible benefits that come with getting a diploma. On our quest, we’ve examined both sides of a question that probably doesn’t have an ultimate, correct answer. Is a bachelor’s degree worth the time and money? For this final day of the series, Townsquare Media stepped away from the professionals and sought the opinions of everyday New Jersey residents.

Rutgers graduation
Rutgers graduation, 2010 (Flickr User llee_wu)

Brittany Sabik from Monroe Township, a Rutgers University senior with a double major and a minor, said earning a bachelor’s degree will give her greater ability to move up in the workplace.

“It’s worth it in the long-run because you’re going to make a lot more money,” said Sabik, who hopes to become a state trooper someday.

However, she has been attending Rutgers at a price tag of zero because her mother works for the school. Sabik and her family were not dealt the sticker shock that many other folks deal with while looking at post-secondary schooling.

East Brunswick resident David Smith earned his degree from Kean University a decade ago in the field of health and physical education.

“I’m still trying to find a good job,” he said.

The degree put him into work soon after graduating, but he’s been struggling ever since he became part of “school cutbacks.” Despite the lack of solid employment, Smith said a bachelor’s degree is worth the effort and price. He advised students, though, to attend school on a tight budget so they don’t end up shoveling themselves out of debt for years after graduation.

Peggy from Millstone described college as the investment of a lifetime. She didn’t attend, but her husband did for 12 years. He is retiring this week, following 45 years with the same company.

“Yes it is,” was Peggy’s answer to this week’s pressing question. “If you really want it, you’ll find a way to pay for it.”

At 63 years old, Morganville resident Sharon O’Hare shared the same accolades for college without attending.

“Now you have to have that piece of paper,” exclaimed O’Hare, whose son and husband have both gone on to successful careers after graduating from Rutgers.

The State University of New Jersey was also the answer for 22-year-old Manalapan resident Brooke Lupo. She graduated in January with a bachelor’s degree in psychology, a field Lupo says is tough for finding jobs without a master’s degree. She hopes to achieve that final step in the next few years.

“I think I’m better off going to college than people who didn’t go,” Lupo said.

Another Rutgers grad, who wouldn’t share her name, said the job search in the field of television has been depressing so far.

“I feel that my college degree will help me in the future, but currently, television networks are looking for experience,” she said.

The 2011 graduate shaved some costs off of her college tab by attending Brookdale University for two years before transferring to Rutgers. It was at Brookdale that she became interested in broadcasting.

Diane Crowe from Millstone proved it’s never too late to earn a bachelor’s degree. She accomplished it through online courses at the age of 47, wrapping up classes just a few days ago. Crowe said she always “felt something was missing,” and she went back to school for her and her children.

“I can’t tell my kids that I want them to get a college degree when I didn’t complete mine,” she said.

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Overall, this week has taught us that four years at a big-name institution is not an absolute necessity, but some type of degree or certificate beyond high school is crucial for anyone who wants to be competitive in today’s job market. A strong argument was presented, though, for the societal benefits that tend to be picked up by someone who earns a bachelor’s degree. No one this week could argue with the fact that a full-fledged college education is teetering into the realm of financially impossible for many families. However, the right dosage of determination and patience can result in the right decision and, possibly, a better and happier life.

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