A Worthwhile Investment?

Lately, it seems that the average college graduates are not earning salaries high enough to justify their time at the university. We discussed the intricacies of the higher education system, but we did not fully discuss the economic mess that recent and future college graduates will have to deal with. For students who are not following an exact plan after earning their bachelor’s degrees (going through a health program like medical or pharmacy school), it can be difficult to find decent employment. Often, students take low-paying work to support themselves until they find something better, and then they do not find something else. Overall, the earnings of college graduates in the twenty-first century do not seem to justify the years of work and debt that students endure to earn their degrees.

In an article for The New York Times, writer Kevin Carey discusses the results of a 2015 government data release, regarding the earnings of students who recently graduated from universities in the U.S. Unsurprisingly, the data showed that “students who enroll[ed] in wealthy, elite colleges earn[ed] more than those who d[id] not,” but for hundreds of other universities, community colleges, and cosmetology schools, “less than half of students” were earning at least $25,000 by the time they had been out of school for ten years.[1] What this says is that, economically and financially, higher education is not always paying off.

Slate writer Jordan Weissmann concludes similarly. He argues that many people pay for and attend college for one main reason: it is “a wonderfully profitable investment.”[2] With relative confidence, these students expect to earn more than their peers who have only high school diplomas, and many college graduates do earn more, but many earn almost the same. Weissmann writes that “researchers from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York noted that the bottom 25 percent of college degree holders basically earn no more than the median worker who ended his or her education after high school.”[3] Weissmann included the graph below in his article.

nyfed_college_worth_it_2.jpg.CROP.promovar-mediumlargeWe must consider all of this cautiously, though. There are plenty of variables mixed into these numbers, such as personal intelligence and motivation, type of degree earned, initial socioeconomic status, etc., but the information is undoubtedly interesting. If students were not already questioning the economic validity of a college degree, they should. The intellectual and emotional transformations that some students experience because of their educations may offset a disappointing salary, but for the others, this dismal payoff is not worth it.

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Works Cited

Carey, Kevin. “Gaps in Earnings Stand Out in Release of College Data.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 13 Sept. 2015. Web. 04 May 2016.

Weissmann, Jordan. “When College Grads Earn Like High School Grads.” Slate Magazine. N.p., 08 Sept. 2014. Web. 04 May 2016.

[1] Kevin Carey, Gaps in Earnings Stand Out in Release of College Data, 2015.

[2] Jordan Weissmann, When College Grads Earn Like High School Grads, 2014.

[3] Weissmann, When College Grads Earn Like High School Grads.

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