Is Getting a Degree Really Worth the Cost?

Grads Corner
30 August 2016 | Grads Corner | Guest Author

Marcus Turner JonesUniversity has become something of a milestone for young people, and where once only the most intelligent, talented, and passionate individuals would earn a place at their chosen institution, a lot of people now apply simply because it’s the done thing.

The way of the world is made clear to us early on: get your GCSEs, get your A-levels, and then get your degree. But how many of us actually stop to question whether it’s the right choice for us before we commit to it? How many people pause to think about whether student life is the life they’ve dreamed of? The answer: not many.

Up until a few years ago, this didn’t matter quite as much. For most of us, university was an interlude, a brief period between the end of childhood and the beginning of adulthood. Extending our teenage years until we were 21 and ready to look for graduate jobs, it seemed like a good chance to buy ourselves a little time to work out what we wanted to do with our lives.

And then university fees soared. First introduced in September 1998, higher education facilities were suddenly allowed to charge up to £1,000 a year. Not an insignificant sum, admittedly, but little enough to make it seem worthwhile to go to university.

But it soon started to snowball. By 2004, students could be charged up to £3,000 per annum. By 2009, this cap had risen to £3,225. Then came the most controversial decision of all, the one that caused students to protest across the country: from 2010, fees rose to £9,000, with students amassing an average debt of £26,000 for their three-year long education.

This is when we really started to question things, and to ask ourselves this: is a degree really worth the cost?

A Cost-Benefit Analysis

Degrees are an expensive commodity – this is a fact that no one could refute. Students pay exorbitant amounts to spend a few hours a week in lectures that hardly anybody turns up to. The PowerPoint presentations they copy their notes from are all available online at the end of the week anyway, and most of them simply rely on these, making them the costliest slideshows in town.

So is it worth the money? The truth is that there is no simple answer: it all depends on what you’re going to get out of your degree at the end. For some, the memories alone are priceless, and it’s not worth missing out on the debt if it means missing out on the authentic student experience.

For others, it’s about the opportunities that university opens up after graduation. Lacking a degree may not necessarily hinder truly entrepreneurial spirits, but for those more likely to end up working for someone else, that piece of paper means a lot. It opens hundreds of doorways that would otherwise be locked, unbarring employment roles that simply wouldn’t be available to you without it. Yes, you might be able to work your way up through a company, but the reality is that your degree will help to take you places. It won’t guarantee you a perfect life, it’s true, but it will help you to build the foundations of one.

Can You Get By Without One?

These points have merit, but they don’t mean that gaining a degree is the right choice for you. Rather than simply applying to university because everyone else is doing it, look at the life that you want, and then consider whether a degree will help you to build it.

For those who dream of creating their own success, and not relying on anyone else to give them a helping hand, it might not. In these cases, it might just be a simple piece of paper. Yes, business skills can be taught, but they can also be learned through doing, and sometimes you need to choose your risks. Indebting yourself to such an extent qualifies as such, whether or not it’s the norm to view it this way, and for some, perhaps the wiser gamble would be applying for a loan from a lender like Secure Trust Bank, and using your debt to begin building an actual business, rather than buying the skills you might need to do this three years into the future.

At the end of the day, it has to be down to you. A degree is currency in the world of work, but this doesn’t stop you from accruing the necessary capital off your own back if you choose to forego university.

Despite this, our recommendation would always be to take the opportunity when it’s available to you. A university education may not be necessary, but it is desirable. A degree is money invested in your future, and what could be a more worthwhile expense than that? Trust yourself and your talents, give yourself every advantage that you can, and you might just find that life delivers everything that you’ve ever dreamed of. Why make it harder to succeed than it has to be?


Marcus graduated in Economics from the University of Sheffield before working in London in the finance sector. He now lives in Buenos Aires as a freelance writer, with his dog, Luna

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