College Education: Is It Worth the Blood, Sweat, and Jaw-Dropping Loan Amounts?

9/2/10 by Karen Harrison

Photo courtesy of evil erin via Flickr

Are you on the fence about getting a college education?  With the cost of tuition going through the roof, many prospective students and their parents are wondering if a college education is worth the investment anymore.  The monetary payoff of a college degree is commonly touted as being $1 million dollars, but actually, it’s a lot less than that… around $300,000 to be exact.  So, is a degree with an average worth of $300,000 a good reason for racking up thousands of dollars of debt?  The majority of college graduates answer that question with a resounding yes.

How Much More Does a College Graduate Earn?

According to a 2008 U.S. Census Bureau report, workers 25 and over with a bachelor’s degree earn an average of $60,954 per year, while those with only a high school degree earn an average of $33,618.  So, over their working life, those with a college education can expect to earn approximately $1.2 million more than those who only have a high school degree.  Professionals with advanced degrees earn even more than that, with average incomes hovering around $125,622.  Keep in mind that students who pursue a college education in fields related to math and the sciences tend to earn more money right out of college in comparison to students pursuing other majors.

Additional Benefits of Pursuing a College Education

Generally, the quality of jobs that people get after completing a college education is much better.  Not only is it easier to find jobs when you have a degree, it’s also easier to keep them.  Moreover, college graduates are more likely to find jobs that offer attractive benefits, such as health insurance.  But a college education does not guarantee success.

Some liberal arts majors only manage to land jobs in retail, while a few high school dropouts become highly successful CEOs.

Ultimately, your success depends on your drive and motivation.  Nevertheless, getting a college education does increase the odds that you’ll have a successful career and lead a longer, healthier life.  According to research, nonmonetary benefits of getting a college education include a longer lifespan, greater participation in leisure activities, higher levels of community service, and more self-confidence.  The networking opportunities that institutions of higher learning provide can also be of benefit, especially when it comes to landing jobs after graduation.

In addition, if you’re unsure about what you want to do for a living, getting a college education can help you figure it out.  At a university, you will have access to a broad range of programs and resources that will help you determine what you’re passionate about.  You may even find that you’ll acquire the skills and knowledge necessary to start your own business if you get bitten by the entrepreneurial bug after graduation.

So, there you have it.  Statistically speaking, getting a college education is well worth the time, money, and effort.  There is hard, numerical proof to back up the notion that college graduates earn more than those who only have a high school education.  Add to that benefits like a longer lifespan, a higher quality of life, and better job mobility, and there’s really no excuse for not getting a college degree.  So, what’s the consensus?  We say, be cool – stay in school!

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