Writing Contest: Second Place

The College Life for Me

Brett Pohlman, St. Xavier High School, Cincinnati, OH (Teacher: Mr. James Juergens)

For many high school students, going to college after graduation is a universe away from being financially feasible. Despite the rising cost to attend college, a college degree is becoming the standard for an ever-increasing number of occupations. Secretaries, for example, have typically been high-school educated, with little college, but in this modern world we live in, it is common for a secretary to have a college degree. I have recognized this trend and feel it is my duty to take advantage of my opportunity to attend college, since not everyone is given the opportunity. However, my other reasons for attending college are more economically based. I feel my decision to receive a college education is the best financial decision available to me, and economic principles help explain why this is true. The incentives for me to attend college are as follows: increasing my human capital and productivity, improving my standard of living, and having a better chance of achieving economic security.

Productivity is the output per worker per unit of time. One of the ways a person can increase his or her productivity is job training and education. As a college student, I plan to study a field pertaining to finance or marketing. Being a high school senior, I have a basic idea what the two fields are. If my parents were to ask me the best way to save for retirement, I could probably look up a few options on the Internet and tell them what to do. However, if I had a college education in finance, I could invest the money in a certain way and start making my parents money in the same amount of time it would take me to look up options on the Internet. Thus I would have increased my productivity and human capital, which is the knowledge I would gain through education.

Another way I plan on expanding my personal human capital is through co-op and internships. Because of doing co-op in college, I will already have the work experience needed to hit the ground running when I graduate, and experience is a factor in increasing human capital. Because of my previous experience in working with companies in an actual work setting, I will be likely to be promoted faster than my co-workers who are just entering the working world. Ultimately, my academic education from college and doing co-op will give me an edge over other candidates for jobs.

Due to my increase in productivity, I would earn higher pay.  With more human capital, I could show employers this greater productivity and knowledge, and I would be able to beat out my less-educated competition. However, getting a higher-paying job does not come without an opportunity cost. The major cost for most people receiving a college education would be the monetary cost of financing an education. I plan to pay for college through scholarships from the school I choose to attend, outside scholarships, partial funding from my parents, student loans, and the advantage of co-op during college. One characteristic of co-op is that it is paid; this means I will be earning even more money to pay for school. Through combining all these different sources of money for college, I plan to graduate with minimal debt, which greatly reduces the financial cost in my case. Having minimal debt will allow me to purchase a home and make other significant financial investments sooner than if I had more student-loan debt.

However, there typically are other opportunity costs of going to college instead of entering the working world or learning some type of trade. For example, most people will be delayed in making money and will be forced to have a low standard of living while in college due to their demanding finances. However, doing co-op will help reduce some of the financial pressure on me, loosening up my budget a little to allow a slightly higher standard of living than the average college student. Since I will likely be getting a job that requires a higher level if education and experience, I will be getting paid more than the average college graduate. This money will help me repay any loans and start moving up the economic ladder. Ultimately, I will be able to enjoy a higher standard of living after college as well as during college. The money I will be making will also lead me on my own path to economic security long before my fellow graduates who are knee deep in student loans and other types of debt.

But college is not just a good economic decision because I have minimized my cost in regards to money; I have many other incentives to go to college also. Going to college is a great way to meet new people from all over the country. I would learn just as much about people and myself as I would about whatever I choose to study. However, I would be forced to leave my family behind in order to embark on this social journey. Thus not seeing my family would be a social cost. This opportunity cost brings to mind a decision I will have to make: How far away from home is the right distance for me. This question is an example of thinking on margin. There is both a benefit and a cost to any distance I choose. Living close to home would not force me to step out of my personal comfort zone as much as moving to New York City would. However, coming home to see friends and family would be expensive and time consuming if I attended college in New York City, limiting me on my chances to come back home and visit. These are examples of cost–benefit relationships.

In conclusion, I believe that my choice to get my bachelor’s degree in a business field and to take advantage of co-op opportunities is the best economic decision for me. The incentives and benefits greatly outweigh the costs in my situation. I feel that my academic education and my co-op experience will give me the edge in human capital I need to become financially successful.