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College Graduates Weigh In On The Value Of Higher Education

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College Graduates Weigh In On The Value Of Higher Education

The Value Of A College Education

College Graduates Weigh In On The Value Of Higher Education

College Graduates Weigh In On The Value Of Higher Education

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Elissa Nadworny/NPR
Throughout the last academic year, we've followed a group of students who graduated from high school a few years ago in Montgomery County, Md.,
Elissa Nadworny/NPR

Throughout the last academic year, we've followed a group of students who graduated from high school a few years ago in Montgomery County, Md., just outside Washington, D.C. We spent the last year talking with them about their choice of public, private or community college. Was the cost worth it? What is the value of higher education?

It turns out they're all satisfied customers. And among the most important subjects they report learning a lot about was themselves. Reconciling their plans and dreams with real life.

Students Who Chose The University of Maryland

  • Alejandra Gonzalez

    Alejandra Gonzalez
    Elissa Nadworny/NPR

    College: University of Maryland, College Park

    Major: Political Science

    Where She Is Now: Graduated college in May 2016. Teaching English in France for a year.

    "I had absolutely no idea what I was jumping into when I decided to attend college. Going to UMD was about getting to know people with completely different experiences from my own."

  • Karie Cheung

    Karie Cheung
    Elissa Nadworny/NPR

    College: University of Maryland, College Park

    Major: Community Health

    Where She Is Now: Graduated from college in December 2015. Currently working at the Montgomery County Department of Health and Human Services.

    "I always thought that going to college was getting that higher degree, to be the first in my family to get a college education. But I realized I grew a lot at the University of Maryland ... socially, emotionally and definitely mentally."

  • Rhys Hall

    Rhys Hall
    Elissa Nadworny/NPR

    College: University of Maryland, College Park

    Major: Sociology

    Where He Is Now: First-year graduate student in Sociology at the University of Connecticut.

    "One tip that I would give based on my experience is applying to grants and scholarships. You might fill out 10 applications for essays and only win one, but you know what? You've just won $500. And it builds up."

Students Who Picked A Private College

  • Becca Arbacher

    Becca Arbacher
    Elissa Nadworny/NPR

    College: Columbia University

    Major: Physics and political science

    Where She Is Now: Graduated from Columbia in May 2016. Now works at Booz Allen Hamilton as a data scientist in Washington, D.C.

    "Columbia was sometimes difficult to enjoy in the moment. There's a lot going on, there's a lot of expectations ... Since graduating, it's a lot easier to look back and appreciate the benefits and the incredible opportunities that I had while there."

  • Evan Bonham

    Evan Bonham
    Elissa Nadworny/NPR

    College: NYU Tisch School of the Arts

    Major: Recorded music

    Where He Is Now: Graduated in May 2016. Looking for a job in music production. Hoping to move back to New York City.

    "My parents made it possible for me to go into school and intern every year. I wish I could have had the ability to have a job during school and help pay off some of my loans or help pay off some of my living expenses, but I'm glad I took that opportunity."

  • Margie Fuchs

    Margie Fuchs
    Elissa Nadworny/NPR

    College: Georgetown University

    Major: English

    Where She Is Now: Graduated in May 2016. Spent the summer teaching English in Hungary and Slovakia.

    "I graduated with a lot of student loans and yes, since graduation I can definitely feel that clock ticking for when it comes time to start paying your student debt back."

Students Who Went To Community College

  • Nancy Chen

    Nancy Chen
    Elissa Nadworny/NPR

    College: Montgomery College, Takoma Park

    Major: Nursing

    Where She Is Now: Planning to graduate in May 2017. Works at the National Institutes of Health and is a volunteer firefighter/EMT in Rockville, Md.

    "I'm able to save money for vacations and my future. It's taken me a little longer, but I'm in no debt and I'm still enjoying life to the fullest."

  • Jake Meile

    Jake Meile
    Elissa Nadworny/NPR

    College: Montgomery College, 3 years. American Academy of Dramatic Arts, 1 year.

    Major: Theater

    Where He Is Now: Acting student starting his second year at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in Manhattan.

    "I've gotten to meet all these people from all over the world, with all these different experiences. From the acting standpoint, you realize how similar humans can be, just put into different situations."

  • How We Did This

    Throughout the last academic year, we've talked to students who went to high school in Montgomery County, Md., just outside Washington, D.C. It's considerably more diverse than the rest of the nation: Nearly one-third of its residents are foreign-born. It's also more highly educated: with more than double the national average for bachelor's degrees.

    Jessica Cheung contributed reporting for this series.