Oddly enough, some people are still selling the idea education after high school isn’t worthwhile.
Former U.S. Secretary of Education William Bennett is one. Colleges and universities promise personal growth and significant financial returns, but most let their students down, he argues in Is College Worth It?. Old Bill must not have been too disappointed with his bachelor’s degree and PhD, both in philosophy, because he then got a law degree.
In The Case Against Education, George Mason University economics professor Bryan Caplan argues that little of the return on college degrees come from knowledge and skills learned in classrooms. But would Professor Caplan be Professor Caplan without what he learned while getting his bachelor’s degree and PhD in economics?
The Motley Fool says “42% of Americans feel their college degrees weren’t worth the amount of debt they created.” Coincidentally, 42% of Americans also believe in ghosts, aren’t saving for retirement, and cite lack of time as their excuse for not exercising.
Let’s get serious!
Postsecondary learning’s value is overwhelmingly evident, even if it’s only measured in dollars and cents.
Researchers with the Federal Reserve Bank of New York note that, “In recent years, the average college graduate with a bachelor’s degree earned about $78,000 compared to $45,000 for the average worker with only a high school diploma.”
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ 2019 Education Pays chart shows “the more you learn, the more you earn” and the less likely you are to suffer unemployment.
What’s going on? According to Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce (CEW), two-thirds of entry-level jobs once required high school diplomas or less. Today, two-thirds of such jobs require some postsecondary education.
CEW also reports that 20% of today’s “good” jobs — positions paying 25-44 year olds at least $35,000 and 45-64 year olds $45,000 or more — are held by workers with high school diplomas or less; but 24% are taken by workers completing more than high school but not bachelor’s degrees and 56% engage those with bachelor’s degrees or higher.
And postsecondary education’s payoff isn’t all about jobs and earnings. The College Board found that, as education increases, so does parental involvement with children, civic involvement, and voter turnout; while obesity, smoking, and use of public assistance all decline.
Of course, Americans needn’t be doctors, lawyers, or executives to have adequate pay and fulfilling lives. But learning after high school clearly helps make these outcomes more likely.
The big challenge is how to acquire quality postsecondary education while minimizing educational indebtedness. There are ways to do this. For links to over 150 articles on such strategies, see College Affordability Solutions’ Topical Index.
Contact College Affordability Solutions for advice on postsecondary affordability strategies to use before, during, and after college. College Affordability Solutions’ consults with students and parents at no charge.