NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Value of College Degree Is Growing, Study Says

September 23, 2010

Despite rising tuition and student loan debt levels, the long-term payoff from earning a college degree is growing, according to a report by the College Board.

Workers with a college degree earned much more and were much less likely to be unemployed than those with only a high school diploma, according to the report, "Education Pays: the Benefits of Higher Education for Individuals and Society."

  • According to the report, the median earnings of full-time workers with bachelor's degrees were $55,700 in 2008 -- $21,900 more than those of workers who finished only high school.
  • Among those ages 25 to 34, women with college degrees earned 79 percent more than those with high school diplomas, and men, 74 percent more.
  • A decade ago, women with college degrees had a 60 percent pay premium and men 54 percent.
  • The report found that after about 11 years of work, college graduates' higher earnings compensated for four years out of the labor force and for student loans, at 6.8 percent interest, to cover the average tuition and fees at a public four-year university.

Even during the recession, a degree offered protection from unemployment.  The 2009 unemployment rate of college graduates 25 and older was 4.6 percent, compared with 9.7 percent for high school graduates.

The debate over whether college is worthwhile has grown more spirited as tuition spirals higher, faster than inflation.  Among economists, though, even those who emphasize alternative approaches to skill development agree that for most people, a college degree pays off, says the New York Times.

Source: Tamar Lewin, "Value of College Degree Is Growing, Study Says," New York Times, September 21, 2010.


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