Does Finishing College Still Matter?

In early 2018, Republic Act 10931 or the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act was signed. The law institutionalized free tuition and other fees of students enrolled in state and local universities and colleges, and technical-vocation education and training programs registered under the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority.

College became a lot easier more than ever. Previously, students from the University of the Philippines Diliman need to shell out PHP 1,500 per unit. But now, tuition is no longer a burden for both students and parents. More than 1.3 million students have benefited from the new law according to Commission on Higher Education Chairman J. Prospero De Vera III.

However, to conclude that quality tertiary education has successfully been made accessible solely based on this is being quite shortsighted. There are still several issues of access that needs to be addressed such as the lack of competent teachers, lack of learning materials, the exclusion of persons with disabilities, location of the school, other expenses related to education not covered by law such as books, etc. etc. In the end, tertiary education is still a privilege.

Statistics from the Department of Labor and Employment’s JobsFit 2022 Labor Market Information (LMI) Report showed that high school graduates have the biggest unemployment rate in 2017 with 43.9% compared to those who finished college with 19.6%.  Those who did not finish college have a lower unemployment rate of 14.2%. From March 2016 to December 2017, the top occupation with the most number of vacancies is call center agent with 39,059 according to PhilJobNet. Current minimum qualifications for the job no longer ask for bachelor degrees but for specific skills and sometimes only a high school diploma.

Despite these data, the LMI report said that “highly educated individuals have higher reservation wages and can afford to wait for better job offers.” In common physical ads for job vacancies such as those for sales clerks and waiters, a four-year degree with a pleasing personality is almost always the combo prerequisite. Moreover, if you have to compete for a job, the bachelor’s degree holder is more likely to get it. If you already have a career, the college graduate is more likely to be promoted in the future.

Another study from and JobStreet suggests that college graduates were earning more than those who did not enter college. The average salaries of college graduates are around 37.7% and 38.5% more than high school graduates and vocational diploma holders respectively. During the start of their careers in an entry-level position, salaries of college and high school graduates tend to be similar. But as they advance, the college graduate’s pay will also accelerating compared to the high school counterparts.

Photo credit: Bloomberg

Bloomberg also made an infographic on “computerizable jobs.” Those that have a higher probability to be replaced by machines. And those that topped the list are jobs that require the least social skills and creativity and the most manual labor, which are mostly held by non-college graduates.

School may not be the answer to some of our most vital societal problems. And school in a 4-walled classroom can be stressful and frustrating sometimes but if you do have the means, please do graduate and finish your degree.

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