Discussion Board: weaknesses and strengths of a sample essay

Length: 1 page paragraphSample Essay to be evaluate is attached.Evaluate strengths and weaknesses of a sample written argument paper Instructions: Write a one-paragraph evaluation (strengths and weaknesses) of the sample argument. Also, use the following questions for your evaluation, and focus on them. 1. What is the claim and what are the reasons for the claim? 2. Does the student use sources ethically? Do the sources build up the ethos of the paper? Do the sources cross-reference (there is a Works Cited entry for each source mentioned in the paper, and, vice versa, all sources on the Works Cited page can be found in the paper). 3. Are you convinced by the student’s argumentation?

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Student 1
English 102
College Worth
With the price of colleges continuously rising, is getting a degree worth the cost and
potential debt? This is a controversial topic that has people all over the United States wondering
whether or not going to college and furthering their education is a good economic investment.
Many people blindly believe that getting a degree, any degree, will help them succeed or lead
them to their own “American dream”; these people are willing to spend thousands of dollars
without considering the financial risks they may be taking by going to college. To make matters
worse, colleges know people believe this; that people are willing to spend whatever it takes to
make sure they get the education needed to further themselves, and colleges take advantage of
these people by continuously raising tuition fees. Tuition and other fees have skyrocketed over
the past 35 years with prices of education increasing by over 1,000% since 1978 (McCollum 24),
yet average annual wage of people with a bachelor degree have only risen by less than 20% in
the same time frame (Adel 2). For past generations, getting a college degree was an obvious
decision for many people wanting to better their chance of living the “American dream”,
however is the decision to further your education such a clear investment anymore?
With the combination of rising prices, education inflation, and degrees becoming too
specific or limited, getting a college degree is becoming less of a good financial investment and
less of a useful tool to success. There are many factors that people must consider in order to
Student 2
guarantee their decision to attend college is beneficial in the long run. College is no longer a
sound investment, and it is no longer the best decision for every person. People need to
understand the risks that are taken by attending to college and the precautions necessary to insure
financial stability during and after getting a degree. College can still be a good decision that
helps people succeed in their career, but it is not the best choice for every person. Each
individual much understand how to minimize the risks of going to college, and each person must
look at all options and possibilities before deciding a career path. Just like with every financial
decision, there are risks and benefits in choosing to go to college. Whether or not college is a
good financial investment is dependent on the individual, and the best way to decide is by
looking at the different arguments given by people on both sides of this issue.
There are a multitude of issues arising about the higher education system that cause many
to be skeptical about the worth of college degrees. For starters, the increase in tuition and other
fees that come with getting a degree has created significant debts for graduating students. In
2013 the total debt for students weighed in at around $1.1 trillion (McCollum 25). Student debt
causes many students to be unable to finish their degree or forces students to be unable to
provide for themselves after graduating. In addition, this debt effects the different groups of
people disproportionately. Minorities and first generation students are affected the most by
college fees and student loans (McCollum 25); colleges target people from these groups to
increase diversity within the schools, yet they do not inform these people on how to minimize the
potential debt. Statistics show 69% of African Americans who drop out are due to an overload of
debt that cause them to be unable to pay for a full education, where only 43% of white students
who drop out are due to the debt (McCollum 25); these people leave college with no money and
no degree to help pay off the debt. People who are unable to complete their degree are unable to
Student 3
get the full worth of college, but it does not stop with them. People who do graduate are affected
by the fees as well; 27% of black students and 16% of white students come out with a debt
greater than $30,500 (McCollum 25), and these student may end up paying much more due to the
high interest of student loans. Student debt is a significant and direct contributor to people
questioning whether college degrees are a good investment; however, there are many other issues
in higher education systems that most overlook when considering a degree’s value.
Aside from the debt caused by high tuition fees and student loans, college degrees seem
to take more than they give. Many people believe that colleges no longer provide a proper
education causing the students to go into their field without a good base knowledge necessary to
succeed. In addition to being unprepared, students are having a more difficult time getting jobs
with simply a bachelors in their field. These issues are due to faulty education systems and
education inflation. There is great debate on whether or not our current education system is
teaching its students well enough to prepare them for real life. Surveys conducted showed that
about half of college students in 2012 did not know the US Constitution forms separation of
power and 62% did not know congressional term length (Meacham); this and many other surveys
show gaps in knowledge of history, language, and finances. Many companies are finding that a
student’s grade-point average does not properly reflect the level of knowledge a graduate has,
and the Wall Street Journal has written articles recommending a post graduate test to show the
knowledge gained and progress truly made by the student over his/her time in school
(Meacham). The college system has lacks proper education programs that provide students the
knowledge needed to succeed in life and in their career, and it begs the question of whether
getting a college degree is actually helping its students expand their intelligence.
Student 4
In addition to people questioning the general knowledge learned by students with a
degree, there is also debate on whether the system used for grading and teaching is actually
hurting the students’ potential. Sir Ken Robinson was a professor at University of Warwick and
is the author of many books about personal creativity (Robinson, Sir Ken Robinson); he
conducted a TED talk titled “How Do Schools Kill Creativity?” Robinson attempts to explain
how the educational system teaches conformity, how schools teach their students that “mistakes
are the worst thing you can make” (Robinson, TED Talks). Schools have created an entire system
that teaches students that being wrong is not good enough. Robinson says he believes that
children are born with creative talent and creative thinking, and he explains how the education
system schools its students out of such creativity (Robinson, TED Talks). The ability to be
creative requires coming up with unique and new ideas, but if the school system creates a fear in
its students that tells them to never be wrong, then many of the students will grow out of the
ability to be creative due to the fear of their idea not being right. The system has been created to
school children out of creative, innovative thinking and instead teaches to memorize and
conform. The gaps being found in the education system and the lack of knowledge and creative
thinking of current graduates has both the students and workforce wondering whether higher
education systems are not worth the time or cost.
To help correct the lack of knowledge received by those graduating with a bachelor’s
degree and to accommodate for the increase amount of students, an education inflation has been
created. Robinson discusses how jobs that previously required only bachelor degrees now require
a master’s degree and jobs that did not require higher education now do; even then, many of the
students graduating are still finding difficulty in acquiring a job in their field (Robinson, TED
talks). This inflation only causes more students to leave school with high debt and no means to
Student 5
pay it off. There is no more guarantee of a job with a degree and there are gaps in the system
leaving the graduates unprepared, and, once again, we must ask, is college worth such high
Even with all the risks and criticisms of the higher education system, many people still
seem to think getting a degree is the best choice for succeeding in life; the lead reasoning for this
being that earning a college degree is still an economic investment. Some recent research has
shown that there is still a 15% return when a bachelor or associate degree is earned (Abel 1), and
studies also show that people with a college degree earn $700,000 to $1 million more over a
lifetime (Ekman 392). In “Do the Benefits of College Still Outweigh the Costs?” by Jaison Abel
and Richard Deitz, research is given that shows even getting a bachelor degree in education (a
field that normally requires a masters) gets an average of 8% return after graduating (Abel 7).
The argument in favor to getting a college degree mentions that there is still a significant return
from furthering education and there are ways to avoid going into too much debt. The education
inflation could also be considered a supporting argument for getting a degree. With the education
inflation, the number of jobs available for students with only a high school diploma has
continued to decrease over the years (Ekman 392). The decrease in wages and availability for
jobs that do not require some form of higher education is a significant factor in keeping the
return from a degree high. Abel and Deitz suggest that even with the decrease in economic
security higher education gives, those with only a high school diploma have had more struggles
with lowering wages and available jobs compared to people with a bachelor degree having
average wage premium of 75% (Abel 2,4). In addition to high return rates, some argue that
colleges are not as expensive as they appear. With tax returns and student aid, research shows in
2013 the average “sticker price” for a bachelor degree was $14,750, but the average price paid
Student 6
was around $6,550 (Abel 5). Many schools give need-based aid to help low income families pay
for tuition, and there are also many schools that give out non-need-based aid. This non-needbased aid is used to draw in higher achieving students by awarding aid based off of high school
grades of standardized test scores (Snider 44). In addition to aid received from schools, the
government awards tax benefits; the average amount received from aid and tax benefits in 2013
for an associate degree was about $4,300 with the average tuition cost only being $3,000 (Abel
5). The aid and benefits given made the net cost of getting an associate’s degree weighed in
around zero (Abel 5). As a matter of fact, the “sticker price” colleges give are rarely the amount
actually paid. Even at private colleges, whose “sticker prices” range from $50,000 to $60,000 a
year, have an average net price of less than $25,000 with only factoring financial aid given by
the colleges (Snider 44). When considering the worth of getting a college degree, a significant
factor to review is how much people are actually paying, but this is not the only argument given
for why college degrees are worth their cost.
Another argument given in favor of getting a college degree is simply to increase
intelligence. Even with the disagreement of how much the education system teaches, students
that receive more education will undoubtedly continue to become more knowledgeable
throughout the additional years of school. Richard Ekman discusses this point in case that
Thomas Jefferson stated about the necessity of education: “educated citizens are essential if
political participation is to be meaningful and for a democracy to function effectively” (qtd. in
Ekman). This argument is quite simple and straight forward; the only way to have a working,
intelligent society is by educating the people within such society. The only way to innovate,
improve, and evolve as a society is by passing down the current level of knowledge to the
upcoming generation; the best way to ensure such evolution is by having an educational system
Student 7
that is able to mass teach future generations what is known and how to continue forward. Having
an education system that is designed to educate masses of people may not be the only form of
educating, but right now, in today’s day-and-age, there are limited alternative options for passing
down knowledge. There are, of course, the exceptions to the system able to be successful and
earn high wages, without such formal education; however, this is an exception, the majority of
people are not capable or do not have the resources needed to become a great success without
proper teachings. Ekman calls this assumption of being able to skip higher education and still
make high wages the “Bill Gate effect”; Ekman explains how these big successes who drop out
of college are publicized too much and create a thinking that the majority are capable of the same
(Ekman 392). The education system, of course, has its flaws, but there are many arguments on
why getting a college degree is still, and most likely will always be, a good investment towards a
promising future.
With valid arguments supporting both sides of this issue, how can college worth be
determined? The one side argues that colleges are too expensive and do not educate well enough
to outweigh the risks and potential debt graduates may endure. The other side states that such
debt can be avoided and that getting educated will always be a benefit in itself. So how do we
determine who is right? How do we decide which argument is stronger, which points are more
accurate, which ideas are better?
The end conclusion is that neither side of the argument may be considered completely
right. This issue is circumstantial; the answer to such a big question changes with each
individual. The best way to figure out whether or not college is worth the cost is by looking at
the statistics, the options, and the personal goals that contribute to setting up a good pathway into
the wanted career. To start this, the first step would be figuring out personal strengths,
Student 8
weaknesses, and goals. There are certain degrees that require a formal education, and there are
also more risks involved with selected degrees or fields of study. An engineer major has an
average return value of 21%, whereas a liberal arts major has a return value of only 12% (Abel
7). When figuring out a degree there are factors that need to be weighed in; these could include
the amount of available jobs in the given field of study and the average wage. A degree with a
low average wage will be harder to pay back college fees than degrees with higher average
wages. In addition to looking at the job market involved with a particular field of study, the level
of degree in higher education would be another aspect to consider. A field that requires a
doctorate could cause more debt than a field requiring only a bachelor’s.
The intended field of study is not the only factor to consider; personal strengths and
weaknesses must be weighed in. Statistics show that children of immigrants, students of color,
and first generation students have an increased risk of accumulated debt from college
(McCollum 23). Research has also shown many students find themselves unprepared for the
coursework provided by colleges, with the number of students needing developmental courses
upon arriving to community college being around 60% (Everett 54). When preparing for college,
financial stability and academic preparedness must be taken into consideration to minimize debt
and ensure students’ ability to finish their degree. The final concern when deciding the worth of
a formal education is which college to attend. Tuition and other fees for college continue to rise,
and reviewing ways to pay for such high prices without collecting too much debt is important.
Finding tax benefits, (non-)need based aid, and other financial grants will help reduce the cost of
colleges. As stated earlier, the “sticker price” of schools do not match the average amount paid
and sometimes a higher “sticker price” means the school offers more aid (Snider 44). The best
Student 9
way to find how much higher education is worth is by looking at the individual and taking into
consideration all possibilities and options.
There is no way to give a general answer for whether or not getting a college degree is
worth the cost, but if more people understand how to take advantage of all opportunities, then
college education will become more beneficial to more people. Right now too many people go to
college unaware of the risks being taken, because of this, higher education is on a gradual decline
in overall worth. The educational system has improvements that need to be made and more
people need to be informed on the benefits and risks of college education, but if these changes
are made, then the “American dream” will become more readily available to the different types
of citizens in the United States. So now it is time for you to decide; is getting a college degree
worth the cost and potential debt?
Student 10
Work Cited
Abel, Jaison, and Richard Deitz. “Do the Benefits of College Still Outweigh the Costs?” Current
Issues in Economics & Finance 3 Nov. 2014: 1-11. Print.
Ekman, Richard. “Myths and Reality about U.S. Higher Education.” Vital Speeches of the Day
Dec. 2013: 392—96. Print.
Everett, Julia. “Public Community Colleges: Creating Access and Opportunity for First
Generation College Students.” Delta Kappa Gamma Bulletin Spring 2015: 52-58.
McCollum, Sean. “Drowning in Debt.” Education Digest Sept. 2014: 23-27. Print.
Meacham, Jon. “What Colleges Will Teach in 2025.” Time 26 Sept. 2013: 40. Print.
Robinson, Ken. “How Do Schools Kill Creativity?” TED Talks. NPR TED Radio Hour, 3 Oct.
2014. Web. 29 April 2015.
Robinson, Ken. “‘Imagination is the Source of all Human Achievement’ Sir Ken Robinson.” Sir
Ken Robinson, 2015. Web. 3 May 2015.
Sean. “Drowning in Debt.” Education Digest Sept. 2014: 23-27. Print.

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