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3 Ways a College Degree Is Worth Less for Poor Students

Topics: Data & Research

It’s widely accepted that a college degree is a requirement for most high-earning jobs, despite the fact that all degrees are not created equal, and even graduating from a school whose alumni tend to earn the big bucks doesn’t guarantee a large salary. There’s also another factor to your post-graduate success that’s beyond your control: how much money your family had when you were growing up. Here are just a few of the ways coming from a disadvantaged background can compromise the value of obtaining a college degree.


(Photo Credit: Thomas Xu/Flickr)

1. Tougher Backgrounds Mean Bigger Loans

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Student loan debt has now reached $1.3 trillion in the U.S. That’s a scary number for any student, but for the poorest ones, it’s of even greater concern. Without the financial support of family, more students than ever end up taking on debt into the six figures before they have even entered the world of employment.

Getting into lots of debt for education puts restraints on young people. It may tie them to jobs they don’t find fulfilling, stop them from being able to save for a house, and more. In the event of post-graduate unemployment, it might also lead to students being forced to default on their loans. The current student loan default rate is 11.8 percent.

2. Working Through College Is a Challenge

It can absolutely be a plus to gain some work experience while studying. It builds your resume, can be a way to meet more people and, of course, gets more money in your pocket. That said, it could also eat up a lot of time that should be spent studying. Not only can that extra responsibility cause grades to suffer, potentially affecting the overall value of the finished degree, but poorer students are actually less likely to finish college in the first place.

3. It’s Harder to Network

Many low-income students may be the first in their family to go to college. Even if that isn’t the case, they’re unlikely to be well-connected to people in their chosen field who can act as mentors or help them get that critical introduction for a job. Having a network tends to be the privilege of middle-class and upper-class students, allowing them to flourish and make the most of their educational achievements post-graduation.

Tell Us What You Think

Did your degree help you get where you wanted to go? Let us know in the comments or join the conversation on Twitter.

Kirsty Wareing
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