May 19, 2017
Is college worth it? It’s an important idea to consider when looking at tuition costs, impending debt and thinking about the potential financial ROI.

Do the Benefits of College Outweigh the Financial Costs?

Is college worth it? It’s a fair question to ask, especially when looking at tuition costs, impending debt from student loans and thinking about the potential financial return on investment.

In 2014 I asked that question and the data showed that college was indeed worth it. The data then showed that individuals with an associate degree earn more, on average 21% more than high school graduates.

Is that still the case? According to a new study from the Center for Analysis of Postsecondary Education, people with an associate degree earn significantly more than people with just some college credits but no degree.

  • Women with an associate degree on average earn about 26% more than the earnings of women who have some college but no degree
  • Men with an associate degree on average earn 18% more than men with some college and no degree.

Those numbers reinforce the value of programs like early college high schools, where students can earn up to 60 hours of college credit, or an associate degree, while still in high school. Or, said differently, students can graduate from high school with college credentials in hand, but none of the debt, ready to out-earn their peers by a significant amount.

According to The College Payoff, a report published by the Georgetown University Center for Education and the Workforce, the earning gap between people with and without degrees is even larger as degree attainment goes up.

  • The average worker with a Bachelor’s degree will earn 35% more than someone with an associate degree
  • The average Master’s degree-holder will earn 17% more than someone with a Bachelor’s degree
  • The average Doctoral degree-holder will earn 33% more than someone with a Master’s degree

These numbers assume degrees in job markets that are healthy and growing. That doesn’t apply to all fields and geographies. But, as an investment in your future, currently college is a wise one.

Seeing how much the data has changed over just three years reaffirms for me the need to continue to monitor the value of a degree. As the world of work and definitions of career readiness shift over time, these numbers will continue to evolve.

Learn more about early college high schools, which put students on the fast track to degree attainment.

Kate Westrich

Written by: Kate Westrich

Kate Westrich manages digital marketing for KnowledgeWorks, tweeting for @KnowledgeWorks and @EdPersonalized, and posting at KnowledgeWorks' Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, YouTube and Pinterest pages.

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