With all the media attention around the prospect of unemployment for recent college grads I think it is still important to look at the big picture:
As you can see from the table above, in 2010, young adults ages 25–34 with a bachelor’s degree earned 114 percent more than young adults without a high school diploma or its equivalent, 50 percent more than young adult high school completers, and 22 percent more than young adults with an associate’s degree (p. 116)
The difference (in constant 2010 dollars) in median
earnings between those with a bachelor’s degree or higher
and those without a high school diploma or its equivalent
increased between 1995 and 2010. For example, in 1995,
the median of earnings for young adults with a bachelor’s
degree or higher was $24,500 greater than the median for
those without a high school diploma or its equivalent; in
2010, this earnings differential was $27,700. There was no
measurable difference, however, between the 1995 median
earnings differential and the 2010 median earnings
differential of those with a bachelor’s degree or higher
over those with a high school diploma or its equivalent.
Nor was there a measurable difference between the
1995 median earnings differential and the 2010 median
earnings differential of those with a master’s degree or
higher over those with a bachelor’s degree (p. 116)
The figures point to the difference between a bachelor’s degree and a high school degree in 2010 to be $15,100 per year. Take that over 40 years and it amounts to a difference of over $600,000 for the bachelor’s degree over the high school diploma. People love to point to the late Steve Jobs or Bill Gates and tout that they never finished college – and look what they’ve accomplished. There will always be exceptions to the rule – but the table above shows that the more education you attain – the more dollars in salary you can expect earn over your lifetime.
I think it is reckless and irresponsible of the media to paint a picture that devalues the worth of a four year degree. Yes, students should be careful consumers when it comes time to shop for colleges – but in the long run that degree will be worth the paper it is printed on and over 600,000 other pieces of paper also.
Aud, S., Hussar, W., Johnson, F., Kena, G., Roth, E., Manning, E., Wang, X.,
and Zhang, J. (2012). The Condition of Education 2012 (NCES 2012-045).
U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics.
Washington, DC. Retrieved [date] from http://nces.ed.gov/pubsearch.