Not going to college costs a lot


Source: Pew Research Center

Ever hear yourself say a college education just isn’t worth it anymore? In today’s tentative economy many wonder if  the tuition burden just doesn’t add up in terms of the cost/benefit analysis.  A recent study, “The Rising Cost of Not Going to College,” published by the independent, nonprofit Pew Research Center, presents findings very much to the contrary:

For those who question the value of college in this era of soaring student debt and high unemployment, the attitudes and experiences of today’s young adults—members of the so-called Millennial generation—provide a compelling answer. On virtually every measure of economic well-being and career attainment—from personal earnings to job satisfaction to the share employed full time—young college graduates are outperforming their peers with less education. And when today’s young adults are compared with previous generations, the disparity in economic outcomes between college graduates and those with a high school diploma or less formal schooling has never been greater in the modern era.

In a nutshell, earning power is significantly higher for those young adults with a college education than for those without one, and college grads today are earning relatively more than their peers without a college degree than young college grads in previous generations out-earned their peers without degrees.

This graph at right from the Pew article sum it up.

If you don’t think a college education is worth the investment, there’s also this from the study:

But do these benefits outweigh the financial burden imposed by four or more years of college? Among Millennials ages 25 to 32, the answer is clearly yes: About nine-in-ten with at least a bachelor’s degree say college has already paid off (72%) or will pay off in the future (17%). Even among the two-thirds of college-educated Millennials who borrowed money to pay for their schooling, about nine-in-ten (86%) say their degrees have been worth it or expect that they will be in the future.


Source: Pew Research Center

The study does not sugar-coat the impact of today’s economy on “millenials”:

To be sure, the Great Recession and the subsequent slow recovery hit the Millennial generation particularly hard.4 Neither college graduates nor those with less education were spared. On some key measures such as the percentage who are unemployed or the share living in poverty, this generation of college-educated adults is faring worse than Gen Xers, Baby Boomers or members of the Silent generation when they were in their mid-20s and early 30s.

But today’s high school graduates are doing even worse, both in comparison to their college-educated peers and when measured against other generations of high school graduates at a similar point in their lives.

The Pew report is divided into two broad sections: “Education and Economic Outcomes Among the Young,” and “Public Views on the Value of Education,” plus extensive sources and data appendices. Here, again, is the link to the full report.

In the North Country, higher education is one of the largest economic drivers. Canton and Potsdam are home to four colleges, across the region there are SUNY branches as well as private institutions in many communities. The Pew study was of course of  interest to me.

But another piece of the North Country education story is the struggle at public high schools to continue to provide a robust education for our children. There’s increasing conversation about consolidation and other cost-saving measures. NCPR reporter Sarah Harris is in the midst of a year-long series of reports about the challenges facing our public school system. So a story I heard yesterday on WNYC’s “The Takeaway” about an experiment being tried in the Chicago, and more recently Brooklyn, public school systems also caught my attention.

Programs in both locations are exploring the effectiveness–both in terms of quality of education and of future job placement–of a new six-year high school diploma that includes a two-year associate degree at the end of the course of study. It is paid for in both cases by the public school system, with professional expertise and other in kind resources provided by IBM, at least in the case of the Chicago pilot program.

Check out the link to The Takeaway story. It provides a possible alternative for those youngsters who do not wish to or cannot afford to attend college, an alternative that promises satisfactory job opportunities without a college degree–because the Pew study does not address the other commonly raised question: should everyone–can everyone–(successfully) attend college?

Weigh in below. Education touches all of our lives, whether or not we have children in school or any children of our own.

3 Comments on “Not going to college costs a lot”

  1. Pete Klein says:

    There should be a law that all professors should conduct their own classes and never use assistant professors to do their work.
    Also, they should not be allowed to use the free labor of their students for anything.
    And please, lets not call any of the educational snob doctors of anything unless they are medical doctors.

  2. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    While college is good for many it isn’t always the best option for others. Too often kids are told to go to college without exploring other options that may be better for them. Learning a skilled trade, running your own business can be very rewarding financially or otherwise. Granted people who prefer other options must be self motivated and need to develop networks of friends and professional acquaintances who can help them along. Maybe these people need to get higher education in a more directed fashion selecting particular continuing ed classes.

    These people will not show up in unemployment statistics because they have made their own jobs.

  3. Aubrey says:

    Thank you for opening the door for comment on an issue that is very near and dear to our hearts. I work for an organization called College For Every Student (CFES), a national non-profit that works with low-income and underserved K-12 students to help them prepare for, access, and succeed in college.

    CFES is based in the North Country (Essex, NY) and locally partners with 10 schools and 20 colleges in and around the region. Nationally, we work with 200 schools and 200 colleges annually to create opportunities for our students.

    Over the last 23 years, our organization has helped thousands of underserved youth in 700 schools nationwide, in partnership with regional colleges, strengthen academic performance, graduate from high school, and go on to college.

    To answer your question, “should everyone-can everyone-successfully attend college?” CFES believes that every student should have the OPPORTUNITY to attend college.

    The CFES model engages its urban and rural low-income students, known as CFES Scholars (20,000/year) in three core practices- Mentoring, Leadership Through Service, and Pathways to College.

    A recent study by the University of Michigan shows the dramatic impact of CFES programs on this cohort of students. Caralee Adams of Education Week reported:

    “University of Michigan researchers found strong evidence that this combination of interventions used by the 22-year-old, non-profit College for Every Student had a substantial impact on college-going attitudes of disadvantaged students. Seventy-five percent of its program participants in the study plan to attend four-year colleges, compared with 5 percent of students in a control group.”

    If we believe in our students and create conditions for them to succeed, they will. Our future rests with theirs.

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