September 21, 2010

A new study, sponsored by the College Board Advocacy & Policy Center, tries to put a dollar figure on how much a college education is worth [PDF]. It is the center’s third such effort, following editions in 2004 and 2007, and purports to document “the returns both individual students and society as a whole receive from investments in higher education.”

There are lots of ways to measure the value of a college education. Students learn independence, self-confidence, job skills and critical thinking skills. They learn how to live and interact with a new range of people. But without a doubt, to be really valuable, a college education should also pay off financially.

The Chronicle of Higher Education offers a related graf and reports:

“Over the course of a 40-year career, the average college graduate earns about 66 percent more than the typical high-school graduate, and those with advanced degrees earn two to three times as much as a high-school graduate, according to the report.”

The study found that college graduates are far less likely to rely on food stamps or be in jail/prison. College grads are far more likely to have employer-paid health insurance, graduates are more likely to be involved in charitable efforts to help their community, and college grads generally live more healthy lifestyles than those who only graduate from high school. College graduates are less likely to smoke, more likely to read to their children and say they are more satisfied with their jobs than those who stop their formal education after high school.

The study’s authors say:

● “Median earnings of bachelor’s degree recipients working full-time year-round in 2008 were $55,700, $21,900 more than median earnings of high school graduates.
● “Individuals with some college but no degree earned 17% more than high school graduates working full-time year-round. Their median after-tax earnings were 16% higher.
● “For young adults between the ages of 20 and 24, the unemployment rate in the fourth quarter of 2009 for high school graduates was 2.6 times as high as that for college graduates. The financial return associated with additional years of schooling beyond high school and the gaps in earnings by education level have increased over time.
● “In 2008, median earnings for women ages 25 to 34 with a bachelor’s degree or higher were 79% higher than median earnings for women with a high school diploma. The earnings premium for men was 74%. These earnings differentials were 60% and 54%, respectively, a decade earlier.
● “The median hourly wage gain attributable to the first year of college, adjusted for race, gender, and work experience, increased from an estimated 8% in 1973 to about 10% in 1989, and 11% in 2007.”

And you are way more likely to have a job if you have a college education, according to The Chronicle.

Support high-integrity, independent journalism that serves democracy. Make a gift to Poynter today. The Poynter Institute is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, and your gift helps us make good journalism better.
Al Tompkins is one of America's most requested broadcast journalism and multimedia teachers and coaches. After nearly 30 years working as a reporter, photojournalist, producer,…
Al Tompkins

More News

Back to News