First generation college graduate from a lower-middle class family here - I certainly would not be where I am today without my college degree. It catapulted my earnings (and my quality of life) way past the earlier generations in my family.
Unlike my extremely hard-working single mom (one full-time job, one part time job) and my grandmother (TWO full-time jobs into her seventies), I am able to have a savings account, live on my own, work ONE job, and TRAVEL.
That being said, I pay about $1,000/month in student loan payments. I can’t spend frivolously, but I plan to be paid off by the time I’m thirty (with a debt-free MBA to boot).
I’ll also say that though my degree was the prerequisite for every job I applied for — everything else is because I asked for more responsibility in every job I’ve had, started taking night classes, and joined a nonprofit board to make myself more employable and experienced.
For kids coming from poorer families — college degrees are a must (be smart about how much you take out — unlike me!), but hard work and dedication is what will make you EMPLOYABLE.