Headlines scream arguments against higher education almost daily, with messages about generations of students swallowed up by student loan debt and soaring unemployment rates. You might have friends or family who say a college degree is a worthless piece of paper. If you’re wondering whether the time and money spent on your education is well spent, consider these points.
Worthless? Ask the employers.
If an associates, bachelor’s or master’s degree is truly worthless, then why do most employers pay higher salaries to degree holders? Brookings Institution researchers report that employees with a college degree earn twice as much as those whose highest level of education is a high school diploma.
Moreover, Brookings states, over an average working lifetime, the difference between a college graduate’s total wages and a high school graduate’s is approximately $570,000. More than a half million dollars would pay for tuition and books for four years. And if you have already earned military education benefits like the GI Bill, this makes the financial return on investment look even better.
Even if your benefits do not cover all of your education - consider this perspective. Estimates by AGB found that about 75% of bachelor’s degree recipients graduate with between $20,000 - $25,000 in debt. The average price of a new car last spring was just over $30,000. Most students are likely to spend more on their first car than they are on their education.
A degree does not guarantee you a job, of course. But it does increase your likelihood to stay employed. Brookings research found that over the past 40 years, the percentage of men with high school education who are employed has dropped by 21 percent. For men with a college degree, this number has only decreased by three percent.
So is a degree worthless? Not if you look at the numbers. And not if you consider the vast array of ways in which it will enrich your life: exposure to new ideas, personalities, opportunities, and skills.