One Thousand Days Transformed - The Campaign for Cedarville

by Dr. Jeff Haymond

When many parents look at the headlines about a college education, it is natural for them to ask the question, “Is this really worth it?” When university students (especially in so-called elite institutions) across the country are protesting Israel and effectively calling for the elimination of the Jewish state (with professors often brazenly leading the chants), parents should rightly ask, “What kind of education are we paying for?” When college costs continue to rise and the media keeps reporting that corporations are more concerned about skills than the credential of a degree, parents rightly question the value proposition of a college education. As an economist, I live in a world where “there are no solutions, only tradeoffs,” with cost-benefit calculus at the heart of human decision-making. So, how should we think about a university education?


Most analyses of a college education focus on the financial disparities between those who obtain a college degree and those who do not, and the data continue to show a stark difference in lifetime earnings, with college graduates on average earning over $1 million more than those with only a high school diploma. We can debate whether this trend will continue, but it seems clear that those with technical skills to integrate new tools and technology into their vocation will be more productive, and therefore, more richly compensated, than those who cannot. And at the current time, most of those skills are well developed in a college setting, e.g., computer science and engineering. Maybe in the future someone will simply learn it all on their own and be able to demonstrate it convincingly to employers, but in the near term that is the exceptional path and not the norm.

So, on a strict cost-benefit analysis, the average college student has to say, “Yes, this makes sense.” Yet that calculus is still aggregative, and we know that the jobs coming out of some academic disciplines pay less than others. Engineering, business, and nursing graduates, for example, are all likely to be more highly paid than students who complete some other degrees (on average). Yet in addition to the financial benefits, many vocations require a college degree as their “union card” to gain employment (e.g., nursing). Some even require advanced degrees, such as athletic training. For many, the pursuit of God’s calling requires a college path.

But what if the strict financial cost-benefit analysis doesn’t support getting a degree? In some cases, the answer should be “no” to college. But for many, the answer should still be “yes,” despite the lack of financial return. The bigger picture is seeking God’s calling on your life. Unlike the world’s view of economic decision-making, God does not expect us to maximize the value of worldly resources as our measure of success. We are called to be faithful and pursue His calling on our lives, even if it costs us financially. The world needs great teachers, musicians, and social workers, even if the degree may not provide as much financial return as some other path. Yet for this category, we need to be really careful. I’m highly doubtful that it is God’s calling on your life to pursue a college degree in a lower-paying vocation if that requires a large amount of debt. God still requires stewardship, and if God hasn’t given you the resources to pursue a particular path with a reasonable payback period, then you should question whether that is really God’s call on your life. So, how do we know? With many counselors there is wisdom (Prov. 15:22).


Yet beyond these financial considerations, Christians have a much bigger perspective to consider. We should not view a college education as simply a monetary analysis. A Christian should ask, “How does college lead me to more effective service?” Our time horizon is for eternity, since the things of this world are transient, but the things that are not seen are eternal (2 Cor. 4:18). This leads us to look at things such as the traditional formative purpose of a university. How does a college experience change me into who God has called me to be? There is a reason why Cedarville University has a focus on 1000 Days — we understand the fundamental purpose of helping young people not be conformed to this world (as they often are at a secular university), but to be transformed as their minds are renewed. We also understand the benefit of networking with other like-minded students, some of whom will be lifelong friends and counselors. And while young people often outwardly scoff at this reason, we cannot overlook that many students will find their life’s partner at a university. And Christians understand the necessity of being equally yoked, so this is not a small potential benefit of attending a Christian university.

For many students, even if not for all, college can be an incredible value even when expensive. But this is especially true for Christians, who count the cost in view of eternity. As with any decision, the question is really “Is this God’s will for my life?” And part of the way we answer that question is considering how this path prepares us for a more godly walk with more effective service to others. For those who decide to come to Cedarville, you have our commitment to help you walk a more godly path, with preparation to enable you to have more effective service. May God grant each of us wisdom to choose the right path for His calling.

Share This Article

Interested in Cedarville?

Request Information

Are You Looking for an Expert?

Cedarville University is known throughout the country for its faculty experts who speak into national and international topics. You can find the expert you are seeking by searching our "Media Experts Guide" for detailed profiles and contact information.

Media Experts Guide »