College Still Pays

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


Will Backlash on Higher Ed Lead to a Shift in Post-Secondary Training?

It seems that lately there has been a maelstrom of criticism against our venerable institutions of higher education. Much of the criticism is leveled at the number of students graduating with student debt, the amount of that debt and the prospects of landing a job that will support paying that debt off after graduation.

According to The Project on Student Debt, for instance, 68% of Ohio’s college students graduated with some amount of student debt. The average amount of that debt was $27,713 per student carrying debt out of college.

Critics are asking if that type of an investment is going to pay off in the short term – yet alone in the long run. Mark Cuban, the outspoken and self-made owner of the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks checks in on this topic in his blog.  In this post he compares the housing bubble and bust to an “educational bubble” and predicts the consequent bust.  If his predictions are correct, it could lead to a shift in how we see and value higher education and what we qualify as effective quality post-secondary training.

In this article on Singularity Hub there is an illustration of the shift that Cuban blogs about.  The article is about Harvard and MIT, undoubtedly two of the world’s premier institutions of higher education, teaming up to offer their college-level courses online….for free.  What?  Free?  This shift is monumental as our system of education has been the “keeper of the knowledge” and the gatekeeper to a better (supposed) life for centuries.  To paraphrase a popular ad campaign, “This changes everything”.

Already on iTunes, we can download and listen to lectures from the top scholars in the world on a variety of topics.  Already, some in the media are asking, “what are we paying for then”?  I don’t have the answers or any predictions but I think it will be interesting to see how this paradigm shift plays out.  After it is done being interesting, then I think it will get scary as the same paradigm shift may also move into the K-12 sector – Shift Happens!