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Given how much college costs, how much debt most students have after graduation, and how hard it is to get a good job in this economy, is college really worth it?
In 2013, nearly 20 million students in the United States were enrolled in colleges and universities, more than any other time in the country’s history. Compare that to sixty years ago, when higher education enrollment rates were still under 3 million.
The rapid increase in university enrollment is almost universally considered a positive trend. A college degree is widely seen as a near prerequisite to scoring a well-paid job and entering the middle class.
If you are lucky enough to land a decent job right after college, there’s a good chance you’ll be making a good deal more money than you would without that degree, which generally sets you on a path to earning consistently more throughout your professional life.
The College Board reports the difference in lifetime earnings between college graduates and high-school graduates at roughly $800,000. Other estimates put the figure at more than $1 million. And data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that during tough economic times, those with college degrees are far better equipped to weather the storm. In April 2013, for instance, the unemployment rate for college graduates over 25 years old was 3.6 percent as compared to 7.5 percent for high school graduates.
But that certainly doesn’t mean that graduating from college provides any kind of guarantee of financial stability. In case you haven’t heard, college is really, really expensive … and getting more so by the year. And a growing number of graduates are finding themselves crippled by student loan debt. The average student borrower graduated in 2011 with $26,600 in debt, Forbes reported. And according to a study by the New York Federal Reserve Bank, the number of 25-year-olds with student increased by nearly half between 2003 and 2012. Meanwhile, missing or being late for loan payments often results in a lower credit score and additional fees, which of course acerbates the debt problem.
If that wasn’t bleak enough, a recent analysis BLS data shows that roughly half of all U.S. college graduates under 25 are underutilized, meaning they’re unemployed, working only part-time, or working a job that doesn’t require a college degree. In 2012, one in three college graduates had a job that required a high school diploma or less, including more than 16,000 parking lot attendants, 83,000 bartenders, and 115,000 janitors, writes Ohio University Economics Professor Richard Vedder.
In many ways, it’s the perfect catch-22: unless you’re the next Marc Zuckerberg (a bonafide college dropout), there’s a good chance that a college degree is going to be pretty important thing for you to have as you enter the job market. But, and it’s a big but, that degree usually doesn’t come without a pretty significant cost that you’ll have to shoulder.
PBS NewsHour video Soaring College Costs Revive Debate Over a Diploma’s Value
As a growing number of students suffer the soaring costs of education debt many questions are being raised surrounding the value of a college education. Jeffrey Brown gets four views on whether today’s diplomas are worth the bills.
To respond to the Do Now, you can comment below or tweet your response. Be sure to begin your tweet with @KQEDedspace and end it with #DoNowCollege
For more info on how to use Twitter, click here.
We encourage students to reply to other people’s tweets to foster more of a conversation. Also, if students tweet their personal opinions, ask them to support their ideas with links to interesting/credible articles online (adding a nice research component) or retweet other people’s ideas that they agree/disagree/find amusing. We also value student-produced media linked to their tweets like memes or more extensive blog posts to represent their ideas. Of course, do as you can… and any contribution is most welcomed.
Pew Research post Is College Worth It?
This report is based on findings from a pair of Pew Research Center surveys conducted in the Spring of 2011. One is a telephone survey taken among a nationally representative sample of 2,142 adults ages 18 and older. The other is an online survey, done in association with the Chronicle of Higher Education, among the presidents of 1,055 two-year and four-year private, public, and for-profit colleges and universities.
NPR Radio segment Study: College Degree Holds Its Value
A new study shows college graduates have fared much better in the economic recovery than those without a degree. The Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce reports that nearly all of the jobs recovered since the economic downturn have required a post-secondary degree. And despite the struggles of many recent graduates, workers with college degrees still enjoy a substantial wage benefit over those with only a high school education.
Time infographic Is College Worth It?
As the cost of higher education skyrockets, a new Pew study finds that students and families are questioning its value