There's some debate these days about the value of a college degree. Some see it as a long, expensive path that leads them where they will end up anyway.
While those whose attend cite increased earning potential and a wider variety of job prospects, others see higher education as an unnecessary step -- one that will send them spiraling into debt.
There is some truth to that. Student Loan Hero recently reported that the average student loan debt for 2017's graduating class topped $39,400, a six percent increase from 2016.
Here is the other scary part: Americans owe over $1.48 trillion in student loan debt, over 44 million borrowers. That's $620 billion more than the total US credit card debt.
Despite the debt and the upfront costs and the time, a college education is still worth it. Here's why...
1. Millennials say so
A 2014 study of millennial views of going to college conducted by Pew Research Center found college graduates between the ages of 25 and 32 made an average of $17,500 more per year than those with just a high school diploma. They also have an unemployment rate of just 3.8 percent, compared to that of 21.8 percent for high school graduates.
Pew explains, "Even among the two-thirds of college-educated millennials who borrowed money to pay for their schooling, about nine-in-ten (86%) say their degrees have been worth it or expect that they will be in the future."
The report adds, "While earnings of those with a college degree rose, the typical high school graduate's earnings fell by more than $3,000, from $31,384 in 1965 to $28,000 in 2013."
The salary gains that college-educated millennials experience more than offset the cost of attendance.
2. Data supports it
Latest data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) shows a record high pay gap between those with a four-year degree compared to those with a high school degree.
Those with four-year degrees earn a median weekly salary of $1,137, compared to $678 for those with only a high school degree.
The Economic Policy Institute found that all four-year degree graduates benefit from education, even those who do not attend elite schools. They found that those with a high school degree face 17.9 percent unemployment versus 5.6 percent for college graduates across the board.
3. It builds the confidence and grit you may not otherwise develop
Being on your own for the first time is hard. Learning to navigate daily life and its daily decisions requires skill that you do not realize you need until there is no one around to direct you.
When you stay up all night, or need to manage your time to fit in your classes and homework, sports and clubs, you are training yourself for your adult life -- and it's not easy.
This independence builds the skills you will need to make it as an adult -- and to make in the workforce.
4. You will develop lifelong friendships
You will also figure out who you want in your court -- and who you don't. College is one of those rare times in your life when you are in the same boat with literally hundreds, if not thousands, of other people trying to figure it all out.
You are bound to find some folks who stick with you long after you graduate. Trust us.
5. You will learn and practice critical skills
In addition to the salary benefits, grit, determination, and independence that you will no doubt experience, you will gain practical, career-ready skills.
In college, you will develop your writing and communications skills, and learn how to manage your time.
Strong writing skills are invaluable, in life and in work. To write is to think. To write clearly is to think clearly. All else follows.
Practice as much as you can in college. You will be glad you did.
6. You will be more independent
You are not just on your own physically. You are making decisions, too. You get to decide -- with some help -- what your schedule looks like, what you want to study, and how to organize your schedule to accommodate everything you want to do.
You will also shoulder some of the responsibility of finances. Even if college is paid for already, you will start to understand that everything has a cost. You will appreciate what other people do so that you can have this time to practice your independence and learn something in the process.
College is not for everyone, but if it works for you and you want to do it, go for it.
Learn more about earning a degree.