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The answer to the question, “Is college worth it?” is a no-brainer for this grad. I answer with an emphatic, “Yes!”

The question is a central theme of the recently released Gallup-Purdue Index 2015 Report. The report surveyed more than 29,000 U.S. college graduates. One of the questions asked graduates how certain experiences in college influenced well-being and workplace engagement after graduation. A finding of particular interest to us here at Indiana INTERNnet pertained to the value of internships:

“If recent graduates strongly agree that they had any of three experiential learning opportunities — an internship related to their studies, active involvement in extracurricular activities or a project that took a semester or more to complete — their odds that they strongly agree that their education was worth the cost increase by 1.5 times.” – Gallup-Purdue Index 2015 Report

We are pleased but not exactly surprised by this figure. The hands-on nature of internships allows students to apply what they’ve learned in the classroom. The experiential learning offered gives students a chance to figure out what work they want to pursue and sometimes what they’d rather not do in their careers. We’ve heard countless positive stories from students about how their internship prepared them for life after graduation.

As for return on investment, college is not cheap. The National Center for Education Statistics found that on average undergraduates at public universities paid $7,921 in tuition for the 2014-2015 school year. Private institutions averaged $25,520. At this rate, tuition for a four-year degree would cost $31,684 at a public school and $102,080 at a private school.

These are not small amounts, but studies show the returns exceed money spent obtaining a postsecondary degree. Besides increasing the odds of personal satisfaction as found in the Gallup-Purdue study, a degree often means bigger paychecks.

According to a study on the returns of higher education, workers in 2010 with just a high school diploma earned on average $32,000 a year. That’s compared to $56,000 a year for workers with a bachelor’s degree. The 75% increase in average pay should be convincing enough, but college education is not only about a larger salary.

Personally, I value the experiences as much as the pay. I’ve contributed to celebrating the state’s 200th birthday. I’ve toured Mexico with delegates from Indiana who wanted to immerse themselves in the culture that is finding its way to north-central Indiana. I’ve interviewed World War II veterans in order to capture their harrowing stories of surviving bullets, explosions and POW camps.

Without a college degree, I doubt these opportunities would have been available. Helping run a college newspaper and interning at a large news organization only added to the value of my education.

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