With the costs of a college education continuing to rise, it’s no surprise that many students—and their parents—are questioning the value of a college degree. And since the pandemic has forced many campuses across the nation to go remote, even more Americans are rethinking the importance of higher education.
In fact, undergraduate enrollment overall is down 4% from the fall of 2019 to the fall of 2020.1 Even more noteworthy is that fewer men are enrolling in college.
Yet there are many reasons why a college degree is still so important. Let’s examine some of the more compelling ones.
1. College graduates earn more money. Workers with a bachelor’s degree earn an average of $1,248 a week, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, while those with a high school diploma earn an average of $746.2 That works out to nearly $65,000 a year for college graduates versus $38,800 for high school grads. Over the course of a lifetime of work (40 years), college grads are in line to earn over $1 million more than high school grads.
2. They tend to be unemployed less. The average unemployment rate for college graduates age 25 to 34 is 2.2%, while high school grads of the same age range are out of work at more than double that number at 5.7%.3 The opportunities for college grads are much more plentiful. Of the estimated 11.6 million new jobs added as the nation came out of its recession in the last decade, only 1.0% went to those with a high school education or less.4
3. They tend to be more satisfied with their careers. Among those with a bachelor’s degree, 60% said their job gives them a sense of identity, compared with 38% of those with a high school diploma or less. Those with college degrees also tend to be less concerned with having their jobs be replaced by outsourcing abroad or through technology.5
4. They tend to be healthier. A majority (69%) of college graduates age 25 to 34 exercise vigorously on a regular basis, compared with 47% of high school grads. Only 6% of college grads are regular smokers versus 23% of high school grads.3 Workers with a bachelor’s degree are 47% more likely to have health insurance through their jobs than those with a high school diploma and their employers contribute 74% more to their health coverage.6
As you can see, these are just four reasons why a college degree can be so important for many. The key is to plan with your financial professional for how you’ll pay for school and what school you choose. Not all schools cost the same and not all schools are equal in the value and benefit they provide students coming out of school compared to the debt that is taken on.