Bachelor’s degrees are losing their value

by Tomas Nieto

University of California, San Diego is a prestigious institution. It’s consistently ranked among the nation’s best colleges by notable media sources such as Forbes and U.S. News and World Report. UCSD alumni deserve to drive around with their fancy licenses plates flashing, “UCSD—the Smart Ones.” However, UCSD’s ego might be just hype. San Diego State and UCSD have always been compared on some level, but with recent budget cuts the UC system has lost much of its appeal during the past few months. Higher education in general has become a financial hole for students, parents and the community. The once highly valued bachelor’s degree is declining because of the increasing number of people obtaining one. Therefore, many students from more prestigious universities are wasting money on higher tuition because bachelor’s degrees in general are less appealing.
Last year, according to UCSD’s Student Research and Information, students took 4.3 years to graduate from their undergraduate studies. However, U-T San Diego reported UCSD “successfully managed to reduce the numbers of undergraduates majoring in biology, a field that was so oversubscribed that many students struggled to get all of the classes they needed.” Obviously with this change, the average number of years students take to graduate from UCSD is going to increase, because students now have to jump through more loopholes in order to graduate. As an SDSU student, I’m familiar with the frustration of crashing courses and not being admitted into impacted programs. However, tuition at SDSU is considerably less than at UCSD. Therefore, SDSU students are left with less debt, which is especially important considering the upward trend for the amount of time it takes for a student to graduate.
Budget cuts also produce the constantly increasing tuition. UCSD’s undergraduate tuition for a year has risen to more than $13,000, about $6,000 more than SDSU’s. This is a result of the budget cuts the education system has endured. SDSU students feel the same effect from the recession, but potentially save a lot of money because their tuition starts out much lower. According to SDSU NewsCenter, SDSU was ranked No. 1 in lowest student debt in California in U.S. News and World Report’s “America’s Best Colleges 2013.” This means the generally more expensive UC degrees are not meeting the need for lower student debt. When it comes to choosing a four-year university, prospective students should chose a CSU, because alumni graduate with less debt and with diplomas with relatively equal merit when compared to UCSD. Student debt has reach new heights and consumers are feeling the effect of the rising cost of higher education. UC and CSU schools are known for their world-class education, but if students can’t get classes and student debt increases because of rising tuition, then this is a growing problem both systems are failing to address.

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Neither school is particularly better in terms of efficiently preparing students for the current job market because degrees do not guarantee jobs for students. The Huffington Post reported last year the majority of college graduates couldn’t find substantial and financially stable jobs. This could be caused by increasing numbers of job seekers with bachelor’s degrees. The Christian Science Monitor reports almost one out of three adults have a bachelor’s degree. It is fantastic more adults are getting an education, but this takes away from the value of a degree because there are a lot more job applicants who have them than in previous generations. Higher education is a double-edged sword, because it creates a huge community of educated individuals. This raises and standardizes the requirements for most high-paying jobs and decreases the value of its own commodity by doing what it does best—charging a ridiculous amount for knowledge and prestige.
The commonality of a bachelor’s degree raises the appeal of graduate school and post-graduate education. According to CBS News, the unemployment rate was “lower for people who had earned their master’s degree (2.4 percent) and lower still for those with professional degrees (1.7 percent).” Furthermore, CBS News also reported “Over the course of a lifetime, a person with a master’s degree stands to earn $400,000 more than someone with only a bachelor’s (degree).” Both of these statistics indicate the growing need to pursue a graduate degree because it allows an individual to appeal to employers better with the uniqueness of an advanced degree. However, students considering graduate school must think about the additional cost of tuition, which is often considerably higher than undergraduate tuition. Still, while the additional cost of graduate school might be staggering, the higher wages are still worth the price.
It all boils down to the doors various degrees open for a graduate. Students face many issues including pressure to graduate quickly, increasing tuition and the declining value of a bachelor’s degree. Therefore, the value of a degree isn’t based on the prestige of the university anymore; it is based on how much burden it leaves a graduate with.