Does it Still Pay to Have a College Degree?
  • Does it Still Pay to Have a College Degree?
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Remember when people told you that if you went to college you would earn $1 million more over your working life than if you didn’t?

I’m not sure anyone really believed that, but if they did and it steered them toward attaining a college degree, we should be happy. A college degree shouldn’t be subjected to a cost-analysis, because the education you get is going to serve you in many non-monetary ways during your lifetime. Still, because college tuition costs have climbed so high today, it’s easy to see why people want some sort of analytics to determine if a degree is worth the investment.

A new report, “One Degree of Separation,” finds that young people may be discouraged from even going to college because they don’t know how to finance their education. The survey, funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, reports that 70 percent of high school graduates don’t even know how to apply for federal financial aid or scholarships.

That bit of information is crucial to many students continuing their education, the study says. In addition, the study finds that only 37 percent of high school graduates believe a college education is worthwhile, even if they borrow to pay for it, while 54 percent of college graduates think it is a wise investment.

“There’s a jarring gap in optimism between young people who have a college degree in today’s economy and those who don’t,” said Jean Johnson, author of the study. “Even more disturbing, young people who don’t get a credential beyond high school face a trifecta of barriers: They’re more likely to come from poorer, less-educated families; they lack basic knowledge about the higher education system and employers; and many aren’t convinced a college degree will pay off for them, especially if they need to borrow to get it.”

Today less than half of those entering four-year colleges complete a degree within six years, according to federal statistics. And, only 20 percent pursuing a two-year degree at a community college are able to accomplish that task within three years.

Still, a college education is the single most crucial component to position yourself for a successful work life. We all can point to examples of entrepreneurs or sports figures who made millions – even billions – of dollars without a college education. But we have to realize they are the exceptions.

Just for the record, the National Association of Colleges and Employers in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania reports that 2011 college graduates are receiving a starting salary of $51,171 when they find jobs. That’s about a six percent increase over a year ago.

Obviously, not every college graduate earns that much – some earn much less and others more – but it does put these individuals in the top 50 percent of all wage earners today. And, that’s only at the start of their work lives.

Again, analytics aren’t going to guarantee you that a college degree will lead to a successful career, but it gives you the best opportunity to earn financial stability in a world that is making it harder and harder to survive without an education.

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LFlo Dec. 4, 2011 @ 5:03 p.m.

“Most colleges promise to make you better culturally and morally, but it is not evident that they do,” says William J. Bennett, the new secretary of education in the United States. “They are not delivering on their promises.” There is another reason why he is negative about the state of college education today. “There’s a kind of assumption that college graduates are a priestly class and that wonderful things must come to pass when you get a degree,” says Bennett. “If my own son . . . came to me and said ‘You promised to pay for my tuition at Harvard; how about giving me $50,000 instead to start a little business?’ I might think that was a good idea.” While college may promise a bright future, does it guarantee success? Obviously not. Yet for many people, there is something that does. True Christians today can testify to the cultural, moral, and even financial benefits that they have received from study of God’s Word and application of it in their lives. They know, as Paul said, that “all Scripture is . . . beneficial for teaching, for reproving, for setting things straight, . . . that the man of God may be fully competent, completely equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16, 17) A Bible education carries no risk. Tapping wisdom from the God ‘whose thoughts are higher than our thoughts’ leads to genuine success.—Isaiah 55:9.


dwbat Dec. 4, 2011 @ 6:20 p.m.

"...2011 college graduates are receiving a starting salary of $51,171 when they find jobs."

That's the key phrase: "when they find jobs." What percent of the grads are finding jobs?


SurfPuppy619 Dec. 4, 2011 @ 9:28 p.m.

Just for the record, the National Association of Colleges and Employers in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania reports that 2011 college graduates are receiving a starting salary of $51,171 when they find jobs."

== Baloeny. There is NO WAY the "average" newly graduated college kid is starting at $51K PLUS in this economy. Not even half that I bet.

Never believe a WORD that a college or university says regarding employment numbers-there are several class actions against ABA law schools going on right now over this very issue-including Thomas Jefferson here in SD.


SurfPuppy619 Dec. 4, 2011 @ 9:41 p.m.

"A college degree shouldn’t be subjected to a cost-analysis, because the education you get is going to serve you in many non-monetary ways during your lifetime." == If you really believe this you are a either a nutcase or ignorant of the facts.

Student loan debt has driven people to SUICIDE today because of the scams going on with student loans, Sallie Mae and all the other scams relating to student loans. The debt taken on for a college degree can destroy a person. To say there is no reason to do a cost analysis is the height of ignorance or fraud.

Here, read this, educate yourself and then get back to us;

Now read the comments here and tell me with a STRAIGHT FACE that there should be no cost analysis with a college degree and student loan debt;


Fred Williams Dec. 4, 2011 @ 9:43 p.m.

Kinsman, the community colleges have had the ability to graduate students quicker for decades. They've chosen not to do it because of opposition from entrenched interests.

There are two reasons it takes three years to finish a two year degree:

  1. Required classes are full.

  2. Students don't know which classes are required.

Typically, the incoming community college student's first year is filled with about 50% "fluff", or courses that cannot transfer or help in earning a certification.

This is NOT because the freshmen want "enrichment" (the argument offered by the entrenched interests).

It's simply because there is no simple way to get the information on which classes do what in the complex relationship of UC/CSU/CC credit transferability.

The colleges retort that counselors are there to provide this advice.

However, if you ask three counselors how to achieve the same educational goal, you'll get three answers. Student find out from each other which classes actually transfer to the school they want to get into, or which classes complete the certification.

This can be solved with a database. It's what computers are quite good at. The student should be able to access their own records, and then query the system about what would be required to achieve various goals.

"What do I need to take to get into UCSD pre-med." hmmmm....

"What do I need to transfer to State and get into the teaching program." hmmmm....

"What about going to Berkeley?"

As it is now, students are denied this information. Hence the first year especially is spent spinning, trying sometimes to get into any available class just to get enough units to qualify for students loans and financial aid.

The current system is expensive. It wastes time and talent.

I proposed a transfer credit database like this in the mid nineties when I ran for the SDCCD board in San Diego...the teachers union and administrators who benefit from the current system immediately gave $50k to my rival, who went on to win the city wide election.

Almost twenty years later nothing seems to have changed, except the system is more expensive and tragically wasteful than ever before...

...don't blame the students. This was caused by our elected officials and could be solved by them working together. For all the vaunted TAG programs, transfer credit is still a mess.

Fix that. See community college graduation and transfer rates soar...


Fred Williams


Ponzi Dec. 5, 2011 @ 9:46 a.m.

Fred, as far as I know, this database has been available for years.

If people want to see what classes they need and what can be transferred, they use this tool. It cross references all community colleges with the UC and CSU courses and degree programs.

"ASSIST is an online student-transfer information system that shows how course credits earned at one public California college or university can be applied when transferred to another. ASSIST is the official repository of articulation for California’s public colleges and universities and provides the most accurate and up-to-date information about student transfer in California."

. .


GlennS1 Dec. 5, 2011 @ 3:33 a.m.

What is "affordable" is relative. What is equal to all is TIME. If you can afford college was the time spent of value. Do you have a career objective? Or are you just going through the motions and living your life as if a college degree is like four years of lotto tickets and someday your ticket will provide you with a gravy train future.? The reality of it is that some smart driven talented people won't have enough money to attain a college degree but they will be successful anyway; maybe not as successful as they could have been had they obtained a college education, but successful anyway. Then there are those who have plenty of money but no drive, no passion, no goals. Their college degree gets them in the front door but success is always one step beyond attainable. So much time is waisted in getting a 4 year degree. By the time a person leaves high school they should have attained the equivalent of 14 years worth of education. So, there are two areas of weakness: personal passion and dedication, and a flawed educational process. History has endless of well educated personal failures, and undereducated success stories. Ultimately one must take responsibility for ones self and not wallow in blaming the system or other people. Pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and start all over again.


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