Shannon's Window: What's college worth to you?

  • August 25, 2015
  • /   Shannon Nickinson
  • /   education

Photo via UWF Flickr, which uses crowdsourced data, is releasing its look at annual College Salary Report this week.

In 2014, according to the site, 130 Argos reported their information to the site. Not a huge sample, but worth having a look at to see what it shows.

How did the University of West Florida alumni who reported their earning information to the site fare?

— UWF alum with five years of experience or less in the workforce have a median salary of $38,700.

— With 10 year or more experience in the field, the median salary is $67,100.

— The percentage of those who believe their job makes a difference in the world, something PayScale terms “high meaning” work, is 59.7 percent.

— A four-year degree at UWF cost $73,100, including tuition, room and board, books and supplies. UWF alum can expect to see a 7 percent annual return on their investment in a degree from the Pensacola university.

The report for the 2015-2016 school year is due out later this week.

As the debate about the soaring cost of a higher education continues, many folks my find themselves asking if college is worth it.

An April article in The Atlantic highlighted the pay gap between those with a four-year degree and those with only a high school diploma.

The analysis in that study, done by the Pew Research Center using data for the U.S. Census Bureau and interviews, showed people with a college degree earned about $17,500 more annually than those with just a high school diploma.

For us, friends, that’s the rub.

Communities with more people who hold bachelor’s degrees or higher have higher wage rates. And in Escambia County, according to the American Community Survey, only about 15 percent of Escambia County residents have a bachelor’s degree. In Santa Rosa County, it was 15.8 percent.

A degree alone isn’t a magic bullet. But to paraphrase Brian DePalma’s 1987 classic, “The Untouchables,” it’s better than bringing a knife to a gunfight.

Studer Community Institute Senior Fellow Rick Harper has written that the degree along, while important, isn’t the only thing that impacts wages.

A four-year degree in a field with slimmer job prospects may not pay off as greatly as an industry certification or technical degree in a higher-demand field.

Turns out, you need the skills to pay the bills.

The median income in Escambia County is $43,918. That means half of the people working make more than that — and half make less.

Getting the income number up for more of our neighbors — and their children — is a key to improving our future prospects.

To get ahead as a community, we need to make sure as many of our young people as possible are armed for the working world that awaits them.

The marketplace they’re entering — with its ever-increasing demands for flexibility, critical thinking skills backed by strong communication and a fluency in math — will chew them up otherwise.

They — and by extension the Pensacola metro area — will suffer for it.