Should Everyone Go to College – Rhetorical Analysis



Taiyuan Mei

Caitlin Kirkley

English 1A

September 12, 2018

Should Everyone Go to College – Rhetorical Analysis

Education is believed to be the key to success. It is considered a smart investment associated with a number of benefits including earning more money and job satisfaction among others. Higher education is beneficial but may not be a smart investment for those attending it. Stephanie Owen and Isabel Sawhill argue that a college degree should not be a must to everyone. The enormous variation existing in the return to education based on several factors such as the field of study and institution attended among others are some factors to consider when thinking of higher education as a must investment. Despite the positive return on education, higher education may not be a smart investment to everyone. Student should be allowed to choose wisely their postsecondary education to ensure that they fully benefit from their choice. (In thesis, clarify the strength of ethos, pathos, logos in the article.)

Target Audience(no subtitle)

Going for higher education is valuable though it may not be the best investment for all young people who intend to college. Benefits of attending college include improved overall wellbeing and reduced crime among others. As much higher education is valuable, it may not benefit all those who attend it equally. Policymakers who are the target audience should acknowledge the fact that higher education does not equally benefit all those who attend it. They should consider the rate of return as well as variations in rate of return on education before considering it the best investment. Owen and Sawhill illustrate why higher education is not necessarily a smart investment for everyone by focusing on rate of return. They illustrate how variation in the school attended, career chosen, and graduation affect the rate of return on education. The use rhetorical appeals to convince the policymakers that attending college may be a disservice to some students.

Rhetorical Appeals


The authors use logos to convince policymakers that attending college is beneficial but does not equally benefit all students. They illustrate the benefits of attending higher education by stating the gap that exists in annual earnings between college graduates and high school graduates that is quite appealing. A college graduates working full time should earn $15,000 more than a high school graduate. However, this is not the case because from previous studies, the rate of return for attending an additional year of school is approximately 10%. This means that an individual aged 23-25 years old attending college for four years should earn $12,000 more than a high school graduate on a median earning of $30,000 though it less than what is expected (p.209). Additionally, a research by Hamilton Project indicates that the gap in the earnings grows to $46,500 by age 50. This is a clear indication that investing in college is valuable.

However, the net benefit reaped for investing in higher education is not equal to all students. Several key dimensions must be considered that include college major, school type and cost, financial aid and occupation among others (p.213). Financial aid is common in higher learning that tends to affect the rate of return on college education. Attending selective private schools is likely to increase the rate of return over a lifetime compared to those attending minimally selective schools. Similarly, attending public schools should reap more benefits compared to attending private schools. The authors give an example of Vassar College that is listed among the most expensive schools as of 2012. It is unfortunate that the school has a 6% rate of return on higher education. However, the financial aid some students in the institution receive averaged $30,000 increases the rate of return to 9% (p.213). This means that students attending less selective schools may not benefit on a ROI of 9%. Attending higher education may not be the best investment for them.


Pathos is effectively used to persuade the policymakers that not every degree is a smart investment. We are aware that the field of study significantly impacts a student’s rate of return on his education. Students specializing in STEM (Science, technology, engineering and math) fields tend to have higher earnings compared to those specializing in education and arts. Students who major in fields like engineering and architecture earn much higher in their lifetime compared to education and service. It is unfortunate that some high school graduate’s average lifetime earnings may be higher than for students who majored in education and arts in college (p.215). This clearly indicates that investing in arts or education is not a smart investment. (Because the readers are different, the feelings of the article are different, and the statement is not accurate enough.) Urging young people to go for such majors could be a disservice since they will spend resources such as time and money investing in higher education but reap less than those who did not attend college.

Again, graduation rates vary. Attending higher education is not a guarantee that the student will complete the course and graduate. Approximately 60% or fewer students who join higher education graduate. Students who graduate from college after completing their course are likely graduate and reap benefits of higher learning. This means that students who may lack finances to complete their courses are less likely benefit from higher learning. Most of these students are likely to attend less selective schools whose graduation rate stands at 35% that is far less compared to 88% of those attending most selective schools (p.6). Telling young Americans that joining college is the best investment could be a big mistake because they may not reap the expected high earnings.


The authors use ethos to persuade policymakers to accept the fact that attending higher education is not the best investment to young Americans. They refer to research such as the Hamilton Project by Adam Looney and Michael Greenstone that shows the tremendous return on investing in college. They further state that the Hamilton Project among others ague of the benefits reaped from investing in college (p.211). This is to convince the readers that the results are credible and reliable. The authors use credible sources to support their arguments building credibility with their audience.

In conclusion, the authors adequately use language to convince policymakers that higher education is not a must. The young people ought to know that investing in higher education may not be a smart investment for all of them. Policymakers should consider a number of factors when persuading high school graduate to join college. They should find alternatives to higher learning to ensure that everyone reaps adequately over their lifetime.

Works Cited

Owen, Stephanie, and Isabel Sawhill. “They Say / I Say”: Should Everyone Go to College. W.W. Norton &Company, 2015.