Is college really worth it?

Everybody knows that a college degree is mandatory to get ahead in this world. But, like many things everybody knows, that may not necessarily be the case. Everyone knows that a four-year undergraduate degree leads to more income and job stability than a technical degree; that is, everyone but the people who study economic statistics. And if you stay the course all the way through to a PhD, then yes, you’ll experience less unemployment than just about any other sector of the working population. But unless you’ve picked the right field (think tech and health care) you’re likely to spend a good number of early career years in a low-paid position. Also, if you in live in the US, you’ll spend a good part of your working life paying off college debt. And while costs for tuition are lower in Europe and Asia, college graduates face a similar crisis: A lack of jobs and often being over qualified for ones they can get.

Statistics released this summer show that 31 percent of the students who started college in the fall of 2012 had dropped out by the fall of 2013. In fact, only about 35 percent of college students earn a degree in four years; the total number of graduates is 60 percent after six years.

So, four out of ten college students face the risk of dropping out which, in terms of income and job progress, could be worse than not having gone to college at all. Having “some college” but no degree barely registers as an earnings booster. It does, however, cost money, time, and incurs lost income to acquire. “When students leave college with no credential and a load of debt, they may be worse off than when they entered,” notes the American Dream 2.0 Report on college completion.


Read more of this issue of Trends Monthly online.

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