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What are the benefits of a college education?

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This article has been vetted by University of Phoenix's editorial advisory committee. 
Read more about our editorial process.

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Reviewed by Marc Booker, PhD,  Vice Provost, Strategy

At a glance

The great debate: Is a college degree worth it?

America has more college graduates than a decade ago. In fact, nearly 40% of Americans older than 25 have a bachelor’s degree, up from 30% in 2011.

However, another way to look at that statistic is that despite the rising number of college graduates, the majority of adults in the U.S. don’t hold a bachelor’s degree.

Often, the reasons given for not attending college are financial, from general affordability to needing to work to support a family. Still, a recent Pew Research Center survey indicated that 34% of men and 25% of women who didn’t complete a college degree made that choice because they never saw the value in higher education. About 20% of women and 26% of men surveyed said their jobs or careers did not require a college education.

So, who is right? Those who see the value in a college education or those who don’t? Also, is there more value to a college degree than the skills you develop in your chosen field?

Here, Marc Booker, vice provost at University of Phoenix, weighs in.

Learn more about online bachelor's degrees at University of Phoenix. 

7 benefits of a college degree

A common misconception about attending college is that the only benefit is earning a diploma. While obtaining a college degree is likely the chief goal of attending a university, the educational experience can also provide skills and knowledge that simply cannot be gained elsewhere.

From building lifelong professional networks to learning from experts in the field, many unrecognized benefits often accompany a college degree, including the following:

1. Time management and discipline

According to data released by the National Center for Education Statistics, about 40% of full-time undergraduate students and about 74% of part-time students are employed while attending school.

All college and university students are responsible for planning their time in a way that allows them to succeed in school while continuing to meet expectations from their other life commitments. Working students, for example, may have to juggle expectations from instructors, administrators, peers, employers and family.

Juggling multiple priorities isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Working while attending college can teach students to meet multiple demands for their time by developing resiliencetime management skills and self-discipline

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2. Potential access to internships and work experience

A unique benefit of attending a traditional college or university can be the relationships students build with external businesses and organizations.

Colleges and universities often work closely with organizations to offer internships that can provide valuable, hands-on learning and professional exposure to students.

As a university focused on serving already-working adults, University of Phoenix also provides career resources to students and graduates. These include career advisement and help with developing valuable, job-related resources, like resumés and cover letters.

3. Communication skills

Communication skills continue to top most lists of coveted job skills, and a university or college is an ideal place to refine them. Where else are regular public speaking engagements via presentations, group projects and group discussions so omnipresent?

For many graduates who want to grow in leadership or gain influence in their professional area of interest, knowing how to communicate their knowledge confidently and with clarity is vital. University curriculum emphasizes these skills and thus frequently requires students to not only learn the content but also figure out how to communicate their knowledge to others.

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4. Networking opportunities

Students enrolled in a college class encounter others from diverse backgrounds and must work together to complete projects related to concepts that connect to their future careers. Because college courses can last from 5 to 17 weeks, students can develop collaborative and interpersonal skills on a recurring basis.

Few experiences offer such repeated and sustained networking and collaboration opportunities with different people, and the skills gained can be invaluable for students in their careers.

The diversity of networking with people is equally important in online classrooms like those offered by UOPX. As the world increasingly embraces virtual work, learning how to connect, communicate and, yes, network in the virtual realm becomes essential.

“Technology has made connecting with others easier than ever before,” Booker says. “This is why virtual networks are as important as in-person networks in the modern workspace. Organizations [are increasingly] expanding their reach to connect with top talent regardless of physical location.

“Additionally, it is a misconception that value-add relationships cannot be formed in an online learning environment. I have seen firsthand groups of students meet in-person at graduation the lifelong friends they created in the [virtual] classroom. The power of being able to have a network that is diverse and goes beyond location is a tremendous asset in the digital age.”

Classrooms are not the only place for networking opportunities either. Universities often host career events and forums with influential thought leaders for their students. These events may also encourage formal or informal opportunities so students can dip their toes in the professional environment and gain access to mentors or practitioners.

Like other institutions, University of Phoenix has offered select internship programs over the years. The 2024 internship program, for example, will offer opportunities for data engineers, application engineers and others to enhance their on-the-job skills.

5. Critical thinking and problem-solving skills

Analytical skills are also among the top 10 most in-demand skills in 2023, according to LinkedIn. It’s not hard to see why given that critical thinking is crucial in any profession that values versatility and relies on its employees to make informed decisions.

Critical thinking skills are developed in higher education every time a student is placed in a situation that does not have clear-cut answers or obvious solutions. This requires students to think on their feet to identify the resources available to them and create authentic solutions to problems without the direct oversight of a supervisor or manager.

These kinds of critical thinking exercises teach students to work autonomously while thinking creatively to solve complex issues.

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6. Access to resources

A college education provides access to services and resources that might otherwise not be on a person’s radar. Libraries, research facilities, career centers and counseling services all augment one’s ability to be continuously relevant in the job market.

“Learning does not only occur in the classroom while students are pursuing their degree program,” Booker says. “In fact, many of the concepts that students review while studying in class come to life when they are out of class and engaging with resources, tools or groups in practical settings. Moreover, concepts, philosophies and skills are not constant. They evolve over time, so it is important that alumni and prior students stay engaged with the academic community. This is why University of Phoenix created a Virtual Student Union, where students can get involved in recognized student organizations or access many resources that will be useful in their careers, such as the University library and free, career-related workshops.”

University of Phoenix also offers writing and math resources to students who might worry their skills are obsolete or rusty after being out of the academic environment for a while.

Additionally, UOPX students have access to a wide range of library materials, including a browser extension known as Lean Library. When the extension is installed and students are using the internet to browse a subject, an alert will pop up if the UOPX library has a relevant resource (e.g., books, articles, e-books, subscriptions and the like) to explore. Learning, in other words, becomes an ongoing experience. 

7. Career enhancement opportunities

Having a college degree does not guarantee employment, but it can certainly improve your chances. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), those with a college education, such as an associate or bachelor's degree, have lower unemployment rates than those without.

According to findings by the Social Security Administration, individuals who have completed their bachelor’s degrees earn more over the course of their lives than those who have a high school diploma only. 

Beyond the degree at University of Phoenix

University of Phoenix believes in creating opportunities for its students through a blend of education and resources. In addition to more than 100 online programs aligned to careers in competitive industries like IT and business, UOPX offers the following resources to its students:

  • Career resources: Download free templates and guides to aid you in your job search.
  • Career Services for Life: Get access to career tools and one-on-one coaching and guidance as you navigate the job landscape.
  • Math and writing assistance: From refreshers on calculus to communication guides, the University offers a variety of resources to students to brush up on the basics.
  • University Library: Access databases and a wealth of resources.
  • Center for Collaboration: Resources and information to make your group projects (both in school and at work) a success.
  • Student organizations: Get to know other Phoenixes as you cultivate leadership skills and broaden your horizons.
  • Life Resource Center: Explore life coaching, counseling and other services that are available 24/7.

Attending a college or university is about more than a piece of paper saying you’ve learned something. The university experience is immersive (requiring lots of time and attention) and extensive (often taking years to complete).

As a result, students who successfully complete a degree walk away with more than a set of skills. They enter the professional world armed with knowledge, habits and a greater awareness of the world around them that will help them succeed wherever life takes them. 

William Ordeman

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

William Ordeman is a lecturer of business communication and a PhD candidate studying communication, borders and public health. Before entering higher education, he led marketing initiatives for several global enterprises as a marketing automation specialist. He has since published an edited book, written several articles, and continued to teach writing, public speaking and employment training to his students. When not plugging away at his dissertation, Ordeman is likely playing his drums or reading a sci-fi novel.

 

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