What’s the value of a college degree right now? With colleges across the country going virtual, it’s coming into question if a college degree is necessary to succeed in today’s world.
In reality, college degrees are more important than ever.
We are seeing stark examples of this during the current recession brought on by the pandemic. When the pandemic hit, the April 2020 unemployment rate for those with a bachelor’s degree and higher was 8.4%, almost half of the rates for those with only a high school degree or those with some college, 17.3% and 15%, respectively. Those with a degree fared better.
Aside from unemployment, having a college degree can also impact safety. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, only 12% of adults with just a high school degree are able to work from home, compared to almost 52% of those with a college degree. Furthermore, with health insurance in the United States often tied directly to employment, having a college degree can mean better access to healthcare during the pandemic.
The pandemic has hit students from low-income backgrounds and students of color particularly hard and increased the barriers to a college degree they already face.The FAFSA completion rate for 12th grade students in Minnesota as of July 3, 2020, was down 6% compared to the same time last year. Furthermore, a survey done by SimpsonScarborough this spring showed more than 40% of high school seniors of color said it’s very likely they won’t go to college in the fall, or that it’s too soon to say, compared with 24% of white seniors.
All signs point to the pandemic having a significant impact on college persistence and enrollment this year. We have a duty to provide more support to students from low-income backgrounds right now.
As with most things during the time of coronavirus, College Possible’s program has shifted to accommodate our virtual world and the challenges that come along with it. All students in our program have the opportunity to attend one-on-one sessions with their college coach online or through phone calls and participate in group virtual training sessions in high school and in college. We have activated emergency funds to help students with expenses that may affect their education, such as technology, rent and food. Through our scholarship fund, we are able to help students with additional tuition support their colleges, the government or other institutions are unable to provide.
Challenges will continue to arise. Campuses will continue to shift from in person to virtual learning and back again. Financial emergencies will come up. We can’t let the pandemic sideline student’s futures, particularly those who come from low-income backgrounds. If we are going to truly address the opportunity gap and create an environment where every student can build an economically self-sufficient life full of opportunity and choice, then a college degree is needed now more than ever.
College Possible Minnesota