NNU Logo


Mar 3, 2023 | Blog

College is expensive. There’s no getting around that.

For the average cost of tuition at a four-year private college, you could purchase 4 brand new vehicles, or a small house (depending on the location), or 40,000 chicken sandwiches from Chick-fil-A.

So is it worth the cost? Do you even need a degree to be successful in the world?

Financial investors use a metric called Return on Investment (ROI) to evaluate the profitability of an investment. For example, if you invested $1,000 in Chicken USA stock and then sold your shares a year later for $1,500, you made a profit, and this could be considered a good ROI.

While some investments are straightforward, measuring dollar-to-dollar amounts, other investments require you to measure intangible rewards by putting a personal value on them. Think about investing time in a friendship. Each time you make plans to hang out with your friend, you are calculating (often a quick subconscious process) whether or not the time spent with him or her will be worth it, particularly when it means saying “No” to another activity.

Determining ROI for your college education requires a little bit of both—precise amounts and intangible benefits.

Let’s do a little measuring.

The Cost

Of course, going to college will cost you some money for tuition, room and board on campus (or living expenses off campus such as rent, utilities, food, transportation costs, etc.). It’s also going to cost you time out of the workforce and a commitment to grow and stretch yourself—probably more than you ever have before. It may even require a few all-nighters to finish term papers and study for exams.

The Return

What do you get in exchange for that time and money? Besides gaining knowledge, learning new skills, and adding a degree to your resume, investing in a college education provides other benefits you should consider.

  1. Increased Earnings Potential
    One of the most significant benefits of earning a college degree is that it can significantly increase your earnings potential. In a recent report by Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce, bachelor’s degree holders earn 31 percent more than those with an associate’s degree and 84 percent more than those with just a high school diploma. They also calculated that a bachelor’s degree is worth $2.8 million on average over a lifetime!
  2. Better Job Opportunities
    While you may not need a degree to be hired for some jobs, especially entry-level positions, you will often see it as a requirement on job applications. Having a college degree is important to employers because it shows you have the tenacity to do hard things, you’ve developed your critical thinking ability and honed your research, writing and technical skills. A degree may allow you to enter the workforce in a role that already pays more and is steps above an entry-level position. It is also going to put you ahead of other candidates when it comes time for a promotion.
  3. Lifelong Friendships and Connections
    One of the biggest benefits of attending college—and one of the hardest things to measure—are the relationships you build. NNU students and alumni often say this is the best part of their educational experience. Their professors support them in and out of the classroom, sometimes mentoring them long into their careers. A roommate can later become a business partner. Teammates become trusted confidantes and your closest friends for the rest of your life.
  4. Personal and Professional Growth
    College is not just about obtaining a degree, it is also a time for personal and professional growth. Attending college can help you develop critical thinking, problem-solving and time-management skills, which will benefit you throughout your life. In addition, you’ll find opportunities for networking, internships, and other professional experiences that can help you develop a strong professional network and gain valuable experience in your field of interest. NNU will also help you focus on your spiritual growth and well-being so you leave spiritually grounded and equipped to serve.
  5. A Chance to Pursue Your Passions
    College is a perfect place to explore all the things you’re interested in, from music to engineering. With a wide range of majors and minors available, you can find a program that matches your interests and career goals. Don’t worry if you are among the almost 50% of students entering college undecided in a major. Having a multitude of options and advisors at your fingertips could be exactly what you need to discover your passion as it exposes you to new ideas and perspectives that can help you develop a more significant sense of purpose and direction.

Your Turn

Ask yourself if a college degree is necessary or valuable for the career, income and lifestyle you desire. What value do you place on your personal, professional, and spiritual growth? What kind of mentorships and friendships do you want to develop, and where will you find them?

Remember, there is no right or wrong answer because the ROI is going to be different for every person. When you look for ways to add value to your individual hopes and dreams, you may find calculating the worth of college is easier than you thought.

Every day, NNU’s admissions counselors help students discover if the cost of college is worth it.

Read Next



By: Jay Richard Akkerman, Assistant to the President for Congregational Engagement, NNU Office of University Mission & Ministry The past few days have been bittersweet. By now, I suspect that most of you have learned that Joel Pearsall, NNU’s 13th president, ...


In a letter to the Northwest Nazarene University Board of Trustees, President Joel K. Pearsall announced plans to retire in the summer of 2025. In a June 4 video call with the Board of Trustees, Chair Mike Zahare expressed gratitude to President Pearsall and his ...