College Is Still Worth Every Penny — If You Graduate

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Yes, college is costly and student debt is on the rise. But college graduates earn 98 percent more than those without a degree.

Relatively sparse job openings coupled with soaring tuition and student loan debt have led many people to ask: Is college still worth the effort and cost?

The answer is a resounding yes, according to David Leonhardt of The New York Times.

A new set of income statistics answers those questions quite clearly: Yes, college is worth it, and it’s not even close. For all the struggles that many young college graduates face, a four-year degree has probably never been more valuable.

The pay disparity between college graduates and those without a degree reached a new high last year, the Times says. On average, Americans with a four-year college degree made 98 percent more an hour in 2013 than those without. “The decision not to attend college for fear that it’s a bad deal is among the most economically irrational decisions anybody could make in 2014,” Leonhardt wrote.

MIT economist David Autor says the pay gap is a result of the U.S. not producing enough college graduates nor preparing enough students to attend college. The Times noted:

According to a paper by Mr. Autor published Thursday in the journal Science, the true cost of a college degree is about negative $500,000. That’s right: Over the long run, college is cheaper than free. Not going to college will cost you about half a million dollars.

But before you hastily enroll yourself or your son or daughter in college, it’s wise to carefully select a course of study and consider your probability of graduating. Forbes contributor Andrew Kelly wrote:

Blanket statements like “college is clearly worth it” have led far too many to blindly invest in any college at any cost.

For me, a more effective message would be to tell a prospective student that, yes, completing college is, on average, worth the time and money. But not all postsecondary options are created equal, so choose the one that reflects your talents and abilities and gives you the best chance of success. And if you choose to go, work your tail off to make sure you finish.

The message here seems clear. College is unequivocally worth it, if you are confident that you will graduate.

Do you agree that college is worth it? Share your thoughts below or on our Facebook page.

Stacy Johnson

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