NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Graduates in Top Income Group

June 12, 1996

This month's college graduates will earn appreciably more over their lifetimes than those not attending college.

  • Graduates earn about 80 percent more than someone with just a high school degree and more than three-times as much as a high school dropout -- gaps that have steadily widened since the late 1970s.
  • Half of those among the top fifth of incomes have a college degree -- while just 2 percent in the top tier were high school dropouts.
  • One-fifth of those in the lowest income bracket are high school dropouts while 4 percent went to college.

Costs for a college degree can be daunting, with tuition alone averaging about $16,000 a year.

  • Tuition and fees at private colleges have jumped an average of 4.5 percent a year since 1980, according to a study from Duke University.
  • At public universities, they have risen at a 2.8 percent average annual rate since 1980 compared to 0.3 percent annually in the preceding 20 years.
  • After adjusting for financial aid and inflation, tuition has increased 2.7 percent annually at public universities and 3.9 percent at private ones.

But according to the National Association of Scholars, students now get 23 percent less teaching for three times the price. Colleges are spending less on teaching and more on research. Over the past two decades, the number of non-teaching jobs more than doubled, compared to an increase of just 30 percent in teaching positions.

Source: Perspective, "Is College Worth It?" Investor's Business Daily, June 12, 1996.


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