A college degree is a worthy achievement

The decision of whether or not to enroll in college comes down to its financial aspect With the nation’s current financial difficulties, college students have already suffered fee hikes and can only hope for a let-off. How many increases do students need to endure until it becomes too difficult to attend a community college?

For fall 2011, Santa Monica College’s tuition fee increased from $26 to $36, and will allegedly increase another $10 in the summer of 2012.

Although a 10-dollar increase isn’t the end of the world, California community colleges should only be considering $46-per-unit fees as the last resort.

For international student Anna Jonsson, paying $36 per unit would be ideal.

“As an international student, I pay approximately $250 per unit. It’s like seven times more than an average American student, so they should be glad they don’t have to pay what I pay,” said Jonsson. Despite the high tuition fee, Jonsson embraces the opportunity to get a college degree abroad. “It’s worth every penny.”

As an international student, I completely agree with Jonsson. Although most students can make ends meet and pay for college, the increase is not joyful news for anyone.

The recent increase will not affect students who qualify for a fee waiver, which is great for them, since they can still apply and get one.

In today’s world, many ponder the importance and benefits of a college degree.

Bobby Simmons, a communications professor at SMC, believes that “a college education is more important than ever before, both in terms of economic opportunity, and in terms of developing oneself as an engaged member of a community.”

Of course, learning is available in many different forms, college may not be for everyone, and some students will give up on earning a degree.

These students either blame debt, lack of a guaranteed job, or they may simply consider it a waste of time. College students shouldn’t let these issues pull them back from earning a degree, but rather push them ahead to succeed.

Plenty of colleges and other institutions offer grants and scholarships for students who could use the extra cash. Many SMC students have won thousands of dollars in scholarships. More people should take advantage of these awards and find other possible ways to pay for college, especially when facing financial strain.

“Not every institution is a smart investment, and students have to make good decisions about how to spend scarce resources. Part of the process is recognizing that what you are seeking is not a degree as much as an education,” said Simmons, who has earned two bachelor’s degrees, two master’s degrees, and is closing in on a doctorate.

A college degree can leave behind a burden of discouragingly juicy debt that will take an eternity to repay, but a degree has a lot more to offer.

The fact is, a college degree is an entirely different level to a high school diploma, since it’s the ticket to one’s desired field and higher pay.

SMC journalism professor Lyndon Stambler said, “In today’s economy, students are finding that college degrees pay off, providing that they don’t incur excessive debt.”

Choices made while in college and afterwards play an important role in decision-making.

While some may discontinue educational pursuits past an associate degree, others will go on to pursue a bachelor’s or master’s, which can help them to a better job. Some jobs may only require a basic education, and an associate degree is enough to launch or advance a career.

“Even with the fee increases, which place additional financial stress on students, SMC is still affordable compared to most four-year universities. Students can spend a couple of years at SMC trying to figure out if they want to make the much bigger investment of attending a four-year university,” said Stambler.

Many think that a college degree has less value today than it did a few decades ago, but a college degree is more than just a piece of paper. It is an experience and an accomplishment that no one can take away, no matter what comes after college.

The phrase, “It’s not what you know, but who you know,” is familiar among many, but it seems that “who you know,” reflects a temporary situation, while “what you know” has no expiration date.