Higher education in America is no small expense. In fact, the dollar amount on a post-secondary education is high enough to dissuade thousands of people from enrolling. In many cases, however, the actual value of continuing an education far outweighs the initial costs to get the degree. To answer the question of whether college debt is worth it, look at the true impact your education will have on the rest of your life.
College Degrees and Employment/Income Rates
According to a study by the New York Fed, college graduates are less likely to end up unemployed than those without a higher education degree. Researchers also found a significant wage advantage college grads have over those with only a high school diploma. It turns out a college degree can translate into earning 80% more than those without an undergraduate degree. Looking at income levels at various stages of employment, these statistics hold steady – people with college degrees enjoy earnings premiums compared to those without degrees.
Overall, statistics show college grads aged 22 to 26 have incomes about 83% higher than people who began their careers early with just a high school diploma. College graduates even make more than workers with significant experience and time in their fields. A study from Georgetown University found recent college graduates make about $1,000 more per year on average ($37,000) than experienced workers ages 35 to 54 with only high school diplomas. This puts to rest the argument that work experience is the equivalent of a college degree.
Graduate school pushes the numbers in college graduates’ favor even more – on average, earning a post-graduate degree leads to earnings between 92% and 229% more than people without a college degree. Earnings comparisons depend on the industry, although numbers are higher across the board. For example, those who major in the arts or social work earn about 29% more than non-degreed peers, while those who major in engineering earn 138% more.
College Debt vs. Increased Earnings
There is no arguing that people who earn college degrees are more likely to find gainful employment and earn more money than peers with only high school diplomas. However, the question of whether college is worth it comes down to comparing debt with the money you will potentially earn in your career. Data from the College Board reports the average four-year degree at a public college leaves the graduate around $25,600 in debt. Private colleges increase this number to $31,200 – not to mention the additional interest loans accumulate over time.
While these numbers seem high, they should not dissuade you from pursuing a college degree. When you break down your debt vs. likely earnings throughout your career, you will see the cost to attend college is well worth the investment. Here’s a look at the numbers:
- College graduate income premiums equal about $10,000 more per year compared to earnings of those without degrees.
- Multiply this by a career that lasts the average of 45 years, and you have $450,000.
- $450,000 far overshadows the $25,600 to $31,200 you may spend on higher education.
The long-term economic outcomes for a college degree are promising. However, many people looking into enrolling in college can’t get past the immediate burden of student-loan debts and the low wages typical of a person starting out in his or her career. A misguided understanding of the rewards of a college education in the long run can lead to thousands of people limiting their career prospects. This is why it’s important to work with a college debt and benefits advisor when considering enrollment. College Benefits Research Group can help you compare college debt with the potential financial outcomes in your future.
Learn more about college debt vs. the value of a degree:
http://libertystreeteconomics.newyorkfed.org/2015/02/the_student_loan-landscape.html – .VOYcC2R4r5K