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Value of a College Education — What's a College Degree Worth? 

Friday, November 23, 2007

We've talked a lot about the cost of college in previous blog entries, but we don't want you to forget about the value of a college education. Unless you happen to be Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerberg and develop a billion dollar company in your dorm room at Harvard, getting a college degree is likely a good investment.

College Graduates make more money

For those of you focused on dollars and cents, we won't mince words about the value of college. In pure financial terms, college graduates make nearly 80% more money per year than high school graduates. According to the U.S. Census, adults 25 and over with a college degree earned an average of $56,740 in 2006 compared to only $31,664 for those with only a high school degree. If you're thinking about getting even more education than a bachelor's degree, adults 25 and older with an advanced degree (Masters, Professional, or Doctorate) earned an average of $80,417. That's pretty good money.

Take a look at the Value of College Calculator on the College Toolkit website to run some of your own numbers and calculate the value of a college degree.

A College Degree Leads to More Than Just Money

For some of you, it may not be all about the money (although you may not be against a well-paying job). That's fine. In fact, we think that's great that you're thinking about more than just the bottom line. As it turns out, getting a college degree carries with it a number of additional benefits as well.

1. Lower Unemployment Rates

You're less likely to find yourself unemployed if you have a college degree. According the Department of Labor, the unemployment rate for college graduates was 2.3%. For high school graduates, the unemployment rate was 4.3%. So a college degree doesn't just mean more money, it means you are less likely to be without a paycheck.

2. Better Benefits

A college degree tends to lead to jobs with better benefits, including better health coverage and pension plans. A study by the Economic Policy Institute found that employees with bachelors degrees were more likely to be covered by employer-provided health insurance than high school graduates (67% of college graduates were covered compared to 51% for high school graduates). And this gap has been growing over the last few decades.

The numbers are pretty much the same when you look at pension plans. About two-thirds of employees with college degrees are offered employee-sponsored pension plans while just over half with a high school degree receive this same benefit. This may make life more difficult for high school graduates when they retire (or it may mean they need to work longer before they can retire).

3. Greater Job Mobility

Spend some time looking at job postings in your local newspaper. We bet a lot of them require a college degree to be considered. I doubt you'll find any that say high school graduates only... no college graduates considered. College graduates tend to have more career opportunities available to them, meaning they are less likely to be locked into a job they don't like. Don't underestimate the importance of having this ability to transition to a new job or even a new career.

These are just a few of the benefits of a college degree. College graduates are more likely to have better working conditions (e.g, indoors with air conditioning and heating). They're children are more likely to go to college as well. They are even more likely to have leisure activities and hobbies like playing sports or going to museums.

So what are you waiting for? Start your college search!

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