THERE is great demand for places at universities but fewer jobs and more requests for reasonable salaries in line with the cost of living. So it is a tough time for undergraduates, graduates, postgraduates and aspiring students. Graduating during a recession worsens the situation.
All this doom and gloom makes it the perfect time to focus on tertiary institutions and ask: "Is it still worth going to university?"
Some unemployed graduates may still find it worth their while. A graduate may say his university experience had been a waste of time but it could be due to the fact that he had pursued an obscure degree at a less privileged institution.
There is much pressure on a student to pursue fields which are in demand in the workplace but which he has no interest in.
Training unenthusiastic graduates is a big loss of potential.
An undergraduate may elect to study certain courses that enhance his personality and gain valuable knowledge over and above his core subjects.
It comes as no surprise then that he thinks higher education is a superb investment, regardless of whether he attends a well-known university or an emerging one.
That there is increasing demand for places at university shows that many still hold this view.
A degree is not a piece of paper that says you had spent a certain number of years at a tertiary institution.
It is the culmination of challenging yourself with a tough course of study, analysing topics and generating ideas. Reducing a degree to its mere syllabus devalues it.
An appetite for learning and an insightful mind are expected from graduates.
The benefits of higher education to individuals and society are significant and long-lasting.
Graduates command a wage premium, which lasts their entire working lives, and there are important links between investment in education and economic growth.
Wealth creation and poverty alleviation are needed to realise more progress. This can be done through higher education.
Non-economic benefits are just as important. Graduates are likely to raise children who can effectively contribute to society.
In short, better educated, more socially responsible citizens deliver great returns to the community.
If school-leavers genuinely want to expand their knowledge, then they should opt for higher education and take advantage of all the gains (both academic and non-academic) that a university offers.
Otherwise, they are better off pursuing other paths as there are different ways to thrive in life.
By Arzmi Yaacob
Source: New Straits Times Learning Curve Comment 22 April 2012