Recently released reports from the U.S. Department of Education, the U.S. Census Bureau, and the U.S. Department of Labor combine to tell an interesting story about the value of higher education in America.
I’ll give you the bad news first. American college graduates are swimming in debt. Actually, that’s a little generous. They are drowning in it. The first comprehensive assessment of students’ ability to repay college loans was released this week by the Department of Education. The data is bleak, to say the least. Students are defaulting on their student loans at the highest rate in more than two decades. And, meanwhile, tuitions continue to climb.
According to the most recent report from a group called The Project on Student Debt, the national average debt balance for the class of 2009 was more than $24,000. But the anecdotal reports are even more grim. A constantly updated feature published by the Huffington Post called “Majoring in Debt” chronicles the stories of dozens of current students and graduates who are struggling with debt figures that often climb into six figures. It’s a quick, fascinating—and sometimes heartbreaking—read.
But at the same time, studies released by the Census Bureau and Labor Department irrefutably demonstrate the utility of higher education. The Census Bureau study reveals that education level has a far greater impact on one’s career earnings than other factors such as race or gender. The variation in annual earnings between America’s least educated and those with a doctoral degree? A whopping $72,000. Annually. (By way of comparison, that’s five times more than the variation in annual earnings between genders, which stands at $12,618.)
According to the study, the median earnings of high school graduates aged 25 to 64 is $21,569 (those with some college experience earn $27,361). Those with a bachelor’s degree earn $42,783. Master’s graduates make a median salary of $53,716, while those with doctoral degrees earn $73,575.
Americans with college degrees also fare better in terms of employment rate. The Labor Department data shows an unemployment rate of 4.3 percent for those with a bachelor’s degree, less than half the rate of those with only a high school degree (9.3 percent). Master’s and doctoral grads fare even better.
By my calculations, these three studies lead to an easy, clear conclusion: a college degree has never been more critical to one’s success, and prospective students have to look as carefully for value in their college choices as they do with other significant investments or purchases.
I would suggest looking for a quality education from an accredited institution that charges reasonable tuition. Maybe one that refuses to saddle you with debt and instead offers an interest-free payment option that allows many of its graduates earn their degrees with little or no debt.
The best news: you can find just such an institution—without even leaving this website.
To read more about CalSouthern’s position on these issues, check out a few of the articles on the subject written by University Founder, Dr. Donald Hecht.