College is worth it, right?

Let’s face it: college is expensive.

As the East County Californian has rightly noted in numerous articles in recent years, a whopping $1.5 trillion in student loan debt sits on the shoulders of some 44 million borrowers – or an average of $34,000 in debt. 

It’s no wonder college enrollment has declined nationwide by about 1 million students since 2011 or why free college tuition platforms touted by presidential candidates grabs the attention of so many young voters. 

A recent Forbes article put this cultural concern bluntly: “Is College Worth It?”

Such a grim question for folks, like me, who work to support a growing healthcare workforce in constant need for qualified medical professionals.

While it’s tempting to skip the degree and work for a paycheck, I do believe college is still worth it. 

To begin, studies value a college education in excess of $900,000 over a lifetime of additional earning potential over a high school degree. 

Yet, earning potential is not the only way to measure the intrinsic value of a college education. Building lifelong personal and professional friendships can last a lifetime of career moves, helping new hires get that proverbial “foot in the door.” 

Bottom line: We have to do more to remove the financial obstacles for college-bound families. 

East County families can expect to pay anywhere from $1,200 a year at Cuyamaca College to $7,000 plus living expenses at San Diego State University, and more for private institutions. Big bills to be sure, explaining the trends of students working one or even two jobs to cover costs.

That’s why the Grossmont Healthcare District helps bear some of those costs to cultivate and keep healthcare talent local.

Together with Sharp Grossmont Hospital, the Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community College District, and several local high schools, we offer a variety of healthcare career-focused programs and scholarships.

Our available programs – Health Career Pathways Initiative, the Healthcare Exploration Summer Institute and the I Inspire Nursing Program – offer students real-world career experiences to help plan their educational path and participate in internships, such as at Sharp Grossmont Hospital. 

And over the years, regardless of income level, we have supported hundreds of healthcare students with $1,500 to $3,000 in individual scholarships.

Though, it is not free money. We require students to successfully complete one semester of college, and in doing so, help foster the professional commitment needed in today’s working world.

Employers are looking for the most qualified candidates and having the degree with all the big challenges students face demonstrates the strength to persevere. 

However, getting through college requires more than just grit. It requires our communities to step up and support students in their pursuit of successful college experiences. 

And yes, it’s very much worth it.