Ever since the European colonists arrived and established the foundation of “New College” (today is known as Harvard University) the debate over whether a college education is worthy of our money, effort and time seems to be one of the most salient, inquired questions that preoccupies the minds of high school graduates.
Contemplating whether college is the right fit for you incorporates in itself several additional pivotal questions such as “With the tuition costs rising four to five times the rate of inflation over the course of the past three-plus decades, is college worth going; is it worth tethering myself to monthly college debt payments for decades?”, “Have the value and significance of the college degrees decreased?”, “Which are the factors that one needs to take into consideration when it comes to making this decision?”, “Is building a successful career a causal sequence of acquiring a college degree? Moreover, how important is college: what impact does a college degree have over the chances for employment as well as any potential future earnings?”
Being one of the most crucial milestones in one’s life, the decision of whether or not to attend college is not one that should be taken lightly and made overnight; a contrary, being a life-altering decision, it requires thorough research, examination, and deliberation based on relevant statistics, data and facts about a college education.
Having the answers to all of the previously mentioned questions is the most promising way towards ensuring that you are making the right decision. In order to help you get a better understanding of this subject, in this paper we will scrutinize up-to-date college statistics and discuss in depth the pros/cons of going to college alongside the potential impact that this decision may have on your future.
Quick Facts & Statistics on College Education – 2021
- In today’s market, 35% of all job offers require at least a bachelor’s degree.
- In 2019, the unemployment rate between those with a college degree was 2% compared to those with high school degrees 5.5%.
- On average bachelor’s degree holders earn 31% more than those with associate’s degrees and an incredible 84% more than those with just a high school diploma.
- Due to the current crisis, 20% of students who were planning on enrolling in college now are reporting having second thoughts about enrolling in fall 2020.
- The bachelor degree holders are 47% more likely to have health insurance with 74% of their health coverage being contributed by their employers compared to those holding high school degrees.
Why is College Education Important?
On a personal level, a college education can be a significant contributor towards improving the quality of one’s life by helping one become more resourceful, responsible, and conscientious besides helping them develop knowledge and a particular set of skills in certain areas. These claims are supported by the Lumina Foundation report which established that:
1. College degree holders are demonstrating healthier habits than non-degree holders.
According to the Lumina Foundation report, higher education also means healthier habits which leads to a healthier lifestyle; they reported that based on their studies, the proportion of adults practicing smoking actually significantly decreases with an increase in education:
“The proportion of working-age adults smoking daily falls from 20% of high school graduates without college to 12% of holders of associate degrees, to 5% of those with bachelor’s degrees as their highest education credential, to 3% of holders of graduate degrees.”
Additionally, they continue to support this claim by providing a report from another NHIS survey that established a correlation between college education and exercise as well as college education and healthier eating habits.
2. College-educated citizens provide more help to society through volunteering.
The previously mentioned report showed the additional benefits of college education that assist in generating better society; the studies showed that while the percentage of high school graduates who volunteered in their society is significantly low – 17%, this number goes way higher for more educated volunteers – 40% of working-age adults with at least bachelor degree participate in volunteering.
Many students see volunteering as a way to gain real-world experience and a chance to sharpen their problem-solving and leadership skills, so they start doing it at college; studies showed that 4% of college graduates (age 25 and above) volunteer each year. According to the last report on the page of the Corporation for National & Community Service, 25.7% of college students volunteered, which is over 3 million volunteers who did 286 million hours of service just in 2015.
Since this enriches their resume, many students see volunteering as a win-win situation.
Statistics are confirming that students are actually quite right about this: according to a study performed by Careerbuilder, the act of volunteerism is perceived as a valuable asset by over 60% of hiring managers when they are making recruitment decisions. They also confirmed that those who volunteer regularly have a 27% higher chance of getting employment.
3. College degree holders are better citizens: they donate 3 times more to charity.
While many may ascribe this to the fact that college degree holders have higher positions and therefore earn more money, it still doesn’t change the fact that college degree holders donate more.
According to the Corporation for National & Community Service, volunteers are twice as likely to donate to a charity, and college degree holders are 3 times as likely. Lumina Foundation report further adds that college degree holders also are more than twice likely to participate in different social organizations, such as community, school, or religious organizations.
Is College Worth the Cost in 2021?
Considering the current epidemic that shook the entire world completely changing how the world works, at the beginning of this year, we witnessed many colleges withdrawing already accepted candidates, some waiting on to see what happens before they announce their reopening, third already announcing it and others, deciding to start classes online in the fall. Considering how much of a rollercoaster the college news has been, many wonders is college worth? Is college necessary, are college degrees worth it in the upcoming years? The answer is yes, and statistics are here to back it up:
4. High school students are reconsidering going to college due to the pandemic.
Canceled classes, withdrawn applications, and pre-accepting candidates, confusing, non-clear messages regarding what colleges will offer this fall are the new reality for many high school students. Therefore, it’s not surprising that many students are reconsidering going to college: a Carnegie Dartlet survey which included 5000 seniors revealed that they are not sure whether they will be able to afford college; another study done in late March by SimpsonScarborough revealed that about 20% of high school respondents who were planning on enrolling in a 4-year college now are reconsidering their decisions.
5. College value will increase in 2020, hence making college degrees more valuable, desired, and needed.
The Guardian reported that in May, “the number of Americans who have lost their jobs in the past 10 weeks soared to more than 40 million” this means that the unemployment keeps on rising; the department of Labor reported that in March the unemployment rate was 4.4%, in April it jumped to 14.7% which is a drastic change and even more drastic is expected in May.
This means millions of people will be searching for jobs as soon as the situation improves, if not earlier; the question that students need to ask themselves then is, how will they be able to fight for a position in the pool of candidates without anything but a high-school degree?
With Recession expected as an inevitable consequence of all this, it’s worth looking at the statistics from the last one to see the true value of college degree and employment during the recession: At the peak of the great recession, 5% of bachelor degrees were jobless, compared to more than 3 times – 15.7% of youth workers with a high school degree.
Albeit there may be other factors that will influence the predictions for the 2020 recession for sure, we can’t neglect that college degree holders will most certainly have an advantage over non-college degree holders.
6. Сollege degree pays off and is key to economic opportunity.
If you are wondering are college degrees worth it, the answer is yes! According to the Centre of education and the Workforce, “College pays off over a lifetime, but occupation, gender, race and ethnicity matter too.” We will discuss more of these influences in the pro/con section. Moreover, they also report that a bachelor’s degree is valuable as on average bachelor’s degree holders earn 31% more than those with associate’s degrees and incredible 84% more than those with just a high school diploma.
Pros and Cons of College Education
The essential step in reaching the right decision as to whether you should attend college is comparing the pros and cons of it. On one hand, countless studies acknowledge the fact that college graduates tend to live happier, healthier, more successful lives and earn more money; however, on the other hand, there are also some education cons such as high tuitions, and the fact that college requires devotion and hard work, and not everyone is ready to give all to it. Better explained,
Pros of Going to College
7. College degree holders have higher annual earnings.
Here is why college is worth it: those with college degree enjoy higher annual earnings; According to the National Center for Education Statistics, who have examined the annual earnings of 25-34 years old adults confirm that those with master’s or higher degree had highest median earnings -$65,000, which is 19% higher than those with bachelor’s degree who earned $54,700. If we were to take into consideration the difference in earnings between a college degree and those with high school degree, we see the true effect and value of college degree: those with bachelor’s degree have median earnings that are 57% higher than the earnings of those with just a high school degree: in 2018, those with high school degree earned $34,900, while those with bachelor – $54,700.
8. College graduates live healthier, prolonged life.
According to “The Effect of Educational Attainment on Adult Mortality in the U.S” college graduates actually live approximately 6 years longer than high school graduates. Moreover, the 2018 study done by the University of South Carolina confirms that college degree holders over 65 actually “spent more years with “good cognition” and fewer years suffering from dementia than adults who did not complete high school.”. Statistics confirm the same fact about younger college graduates as well: “83% of college graduates reported being in excellent health, while 73% of high school graduates reported the same.”
9. College degree holders have better employment opportunities.
Besides living a healthier, richer life, college degree holders see 57% more job opportunities than non-graduates; moreover, Georgetown University also reports that Bachelor’s degree holders gained the most jobs with 4.7 million jobs; right behind them are Graduate degree holders who have gained 3.8 million jobs. Behind them come those with Associate’s degrees with around 3.1 million jobs and lastly are those workers with just a high school diploma (or less) with just 80.000 jobs. Additionally, they estimate that in 2020, roughly two-thirds of all jobs will require some sort of postsecondary education in order to be qualified for certain jobs.
Cons of Going to College
“Is college worth going?” – This is one of the most pivotal questions that have a defining role when it comes to deciding is college the best option for us. Understanding the total cost and gain from obtaining a college degree is a key part of the decision-making process. However, since we saw and discussed the pros of going to college, it is only fair that we mention the education con which mostly correlates to the increased tuition fees and expenses. Here is what the statistics say about is college worth it in 2020:
10. The cost of college continues to increase in 2020.
According to Education data, the cost for tuition and fees are showing a significant increase: “from 1989 to 2016, the cost to attend college has increased almost 8 times faster than wages have”, as the cost of a 4-year degree in 1989 cost at average $52,892, while in 2016 the same degree was nearly $104,480. The trend keeps on throughout the years without any indications of change; the average costs of tuition and fees in a private nonprofit 4-year college in 2009-2010 was $30,670, compared to 2019-2020 where the same cost $36,880; in public four-year institutions, the prices went from $8,420 in 2009-2010 to $10,440 in 2019-2020; and for public two-year institutions the prices went from $3,060 to $3,730 in 2019-2020.
11. The true cost of college is higher and includes more than the tuition fees.
Nevertheless, the previously mentioned numbers regard solely tuition and fees, which are only part of the costs of college. In order to get to the real numbers, one must take into consideration the overall costs of college and tuition. The average yearly costs of college which include prices for tuition, fees, room, and board varies widely, depending in the institution, so for the 2-year institution (in-state rate) is $12,720; for the public 4-year institution (in-state rate) is $21,950, and for the private nonprofit 4-year institution is $49,879. One should additionally bear in mind that these averages refer to 4-year studies, meaning if the student finishes within 4 years; nonetheless, only 39% of students graduate within these 4 years as opposed to nearly 60% of undergraduates who take 6 years to finish the 4-year degree. This significantly influences the final amount that a student pays for his college education.
12. International students may not join 2020 USA colleges.
According to the Association of International Educators (NAFSA), colleges are estimating losses of at least 3 billion dollars revenue due to anticipated declines in international student enrollments in the USA colleges; they discovered that 88% of colleges expect a decrease of international enrollment. These numbers and predictions are not that surprising considering the fact that the international students account for 5.5% of all students enrolled in USA colleges.
13. While a college degree holds great value, it does not protect you from discrimination.
Probably one of the biggest downfalls of the workforce, and for that matter, our society, in general, is the fact that discrimination and pay gap still exist. According to the College payoff report done by Georgetown University, even at the highest education level, African Americans and Latinos still earn less than their white and Asian counterparts; they estimate that they earn close to $1 million less. Women are also being discriminated against: at the same educational level, with full-time, full-year work, women still earn 2% less than men. These are things that students also need to be aware of.
Is College Worth Going? Busting Myths About Higher Education
Myth: College used to be popular; now the number of students going to college is declining.
Facts: College has its ups and downs, but the number of college students continues to rise.
According to the University of Virginia in 2019 analysis confirms that the number of people with a bachelor’s degree has increased from 18% in 1992 to 25% in 2016. Adding that in 2019 at least 35% of the population of the US has completed 4 years of college or more, which is drastically bigger than the number of 79 years ago, in 1940 where only 4.6% of the population had a college degree. The rise of the number of people with a higher college education also continues to grow: just between 1992 and 2016, it went from 9% to 14%.
The importance of college degrees they point out also lies in the fact that in 2016, two-thirds of the labor force had at least some college experience.
Myth: Those who can’t go to 4-year universities switch to attending a community college.
Facts: its students’ choice and the transfer admissions actually debunk this myth.
Community college confirms that the choice is actually made by the students more based on the increased economic burden rather than their capabilities. Calling on statistics from universities, they claim that after reviewing the statistics regarding the transfer admissions, they noticed that universities say that they are seeing academic strength in students that transferred; for example, the UC Berkeley noted that they have accepted 33% of all applicants from California community colleges compared to the 26% accepted from the California high school students; this means they have accepted more from the community colleges than high schools. The University of Virginia also experienced a similar situation – their statistics show that they have accepted over 60% transfer implications that come from Piedmont Virginia Community College, which is 10% higher than the 50% of students that were accepted from the high schools in Virginia. These numbers show that the reasons behind community college are not due to incapability of students, but rather something else.
Myth: One who goes to community college can’t expect success
Facts: How you use the knowledge gained in college matters more than where you went.
There are people who went to Harvard University and are in debt trying to make ends meet; there are those who went to community college and built successful careers which bring them a lot of money. Community college review compiled a list of famous community college students who build successful careers as proof that success can go in hand with community college; this is their list:
- “Pete Rozelle: Commissioner of the NFL
- Tom Hanks: Oscar-winning actor
- H. Ross Perot: Corporate executive and 1992 Presidential Candidate
- Calvin Klein: Fashion Designer
- Melvin Salveson: Creator of MasterCard
- Walt Disney: Founder of Disney World and Disneyland
- Francine Neff: Former US Treasurer
- Arthur Goldberg: Supreme Court Justice
- James Sinegal: CEO of Costco
- Fred Haise: Apollo 13 Astronaut
- Clint Eastwood: Actor and Oscar-winning director
- John Walsh: “America’s Most Wanted” host
- Rita Mae Brown: Author
- Gwendolyn Brooks: Pulitzer Prize-winning poet
- Eileen Collins, National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) astronaut”
College Degree Vs No College Degree Statistics
If we were to compare the statistics, the college degree holders are winning over non-college degree holders in every aspect. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, college degree workers (with bachelor’s degrees) earn on average $468 more per week than non-college degree workers who have high school diplomas.
Another Research (2016-Pew Research) concluded that those with higher education consider their job as something more than a job, they perceive it as something that is part of their identity. Their statistics show that this is how 77% of post-graduate workers and 60% of workers with a bachelor’s degree feel, compared to the 38% of those who have a high school diploma or less=. They further investigated how they perceived their work, and as expected, 70% of those who have college degrees saw their job as a career, which is much more than 39% of workers with no college degree.
Additionally, they claim that highly educated workers are among those most satisfied with their jobs: higher education means higher paychecks; and 59% of those with an annual family income of $75,000 or more say they’re very satisfied with their current job, compared with 45% of those making $30,000 to $74,999 and 39% of those making less than $30,000.
Another statistic that speaks in favour of gaining a college degree comes from the Lumina Foundation report which confirms that those with bachelor’s degree are more likely to have a bank account, 9.4 times more likely, compared to those with just a high school diploma.
Is a College Degree Worth It? The Value of College Degree
Yes. The college degree, albeit criticized and questioned, still holds value.
Those with a Bachelor’s degree on average earn $2.8 million over a lifetime. This was confirmed in a report done by the Center of Education and the Workplace. They furthermore claim that Bachelor degree holders earn 84% more than those with high school diplomas and 31% more than those with an associate’s degree.
There is a solution for all of those who are wondering how they can pay off debt. In essence, there are five main types of student financial aid that can be helpful to various students in paying off their debts: gift aids (such as grants and scholarships) which do not need to be paid off, then student loans – which you are paying off over the course of several years with interest; educational tax benefits (like Hope Scholarship tax credit, for example) which is money you get by filing a federal income tax return; military student aid (such as ROTC and the GI Bill) which provide money for your education in exchange for service in the Armed Forces. The final way is always taking a part-time or full-time job while doing your studies; in fact, this method is quite popular: according to the college of St. Scholastica, 70-80% of college students are working while studying, and 40% of them have a full-time job.
Another statistic that speaks about the value of college degree is that over 80% of jobs in the four of the fastest-growing occupations (which are healthcare, STEM, education, and government services) all demand postsecondary education; moreover, it is expected that by 2020, there will be 13 million available jobs requiring bachelor’s degrees.
In conclusion, we can freely say that the answer to the question “is college worth going?” is most certainly yes. There are several reasons why college is worth it, and they can vary: from improvement on a personal level, such as creating healthier habits, building on stronger social relationships, living a healthier life, etc., to those on a professional level such having better job opportunities, earning higher paychecks, enjoying better stability, etc.
Frequently Asked Questions
When Is Paying for College Worth It?
Paying the tuition and fees as well as all the other expenses is worth it if you are sure that it will pay off; spending that amount of money is worth it when you know how you will pay off the debt; when your profession is one of the highly required professions on the market and the chances of getting employed later on are high; if your SAT and other test scores are good and you know that you will be able to handle and graduate college in record time. And finally, when you do the math and it shows that the total amount you take as a loan will not exceed your first-year salary.
When Is Paying for College Not Worth It?
According to College Education, “Student loan borrowers delayed retirement saving (41%), car purchases (40%), home purchases (29%), and marriage (15%).”
If your financial situation is really bad, and you are not sure about your skills and think that college would be a waste of time for you, then there are greater chances that you will give up on it and end up solely with debts. Consider college solely if you are serious about it. Moreover, if you are planning on working a job that does not require a college degree, you can consider skipping college and college debts and investing in courses or volunteering in that field instead of acquiring a college degree.
How many people with degrees are unemployed?
According to Statista, the unemployment rate among recent college graduates (those aged 22 to 27 with a bachelor’s degree) is 3.9% in December 2019. Considering the current circumstances, this number is probably higher. Unfortunately, economists predict that 2020 college graduates will have a tough time entering the job market. Considering the crisis, it is hard to pinpoint the exact number of people with a degree who became unemployed; the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that currently (April 2020) the unemployment rate is at all times higher – 14.7%; the state with the highest unemployment rate in Nevada, with 28.2%, followed by Michigan 22.7% and Hawaii – 22.3%. Before this, it was estimated that one every 20 young college graduates are unemployed.
How much student debt is OK?
Considering that the current student debt is $1.5 trillion dollars collectively borrowed by 44 million students, it is really important to know how much student debt is ok.
Going in default – which means to stop paying loans altogether, can ruin your credit which consequently will cause garnishment of wages and tax returns that will simply complicate your life. On average, the student loans varies between $30-40,000;
America’s Debt Help Organization recommends that “The total amount you take as a loan should not exceed your first-year salary.” While the concrete number will vary depending on your financial situation, as well as the college you will attend, your job opportunities as well as how much you may earn afterward, it is really important that each student before considering student and taking student loans to sit and does some research on types of loans (federal and private are not the same, contrary to common belief), and have a concrete plan as to how they will handle it.
- Robert A. Hummer and Elaine M. Hernandez, “The Effect of Educational Attainment on Adult Mortality in the U.S.,” prb.org, July 2013