Is College a Good Investment?

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Despite costs, career education makes financial sense. With soaring college costs, some wonder if higher education is worth the time and expense.

When the Pew Research Center surveyed Americans about their views on college, 5 percent said the higher education system provides excellent value, 35 percent said the higher education system provides good value, 42 percent said the value is fair, and 15 percent said the value is not good.

Avoid big tuition bills

Research found that a typical student with loans graduates from a four-year college with a balance of $23,000 in debt. However, according to the College Board, with aid and federal income tax benefits accounted for, the average tuition and fee cost is close to zero for the majority of students attending community colleges.

The pay-off

The Pew Research Center analysis of U.S. Census data found that the average high school graduate with no additional education earns approximately $770,000 during a 40-year work life. Those with a two-year associate’s degree earn approximately $1 million during that time frame, and a worker with a bachelor’s degree earns approximately $1.4 million. The figures include the cost of time and money spent to obtain a college degree.

college2“So is it worth it to forego about $50,000, the estimated earnings lost while studying for an associate’s degree in order to boost one’s earnings over the long haul by $230,000?” asks Richard Fry, a researcher with the Pew Research Center study. “I think many students and their families think this is a pretty good use compared to other risky alternative investments they might make.”

Of those surveyed who graduated from four-year colleges, 74 percent say their college education helped them grow intellectually, 69 percent said their education helped them mature, and 55 percent said their education was useful in preparing for a career.

Kim Parker, a researcher with the Pew Research Center, says she was surprised that only 55 percent of the responders thought that college was useful in preparing for a career. She says that response might stem from some graduates’ sense of frustration with the tight job market. “They want to come out of college and get a job. Some feel they are coming up short.”

Eleanor Yates

 

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