Is college or postsecondary study really necessary?

  • Over the past quarter century, wage gaps between workers with different education levels have increased, largely due to falling real earnings for those with less education.
  • Real weekly earnings for workers with less than a high–school diploma fell from $462 in 1979 to $337 in 1998. This downward trend continued for all workers who were not college graduates.
  • Twenty years ago, the average college graduate earned 38 percent more than the average high-school graduate. Today, it is 71% more.
  • Occupations requiring a bachelor’s degree will grow almost twice as fast as the overall average.
  • The three fastest growing occupations, require at least a bachelor’s degree and have higher average earnings.
  • All of the 20 highest paying occupations require at least a bachelor’s degree.

Educational Level

 

Years in Workplace

Average Annual Income (US Census Bureau, ‘00)

Average Monthly Income

Lifetime Income (annual income x years in workforce)

Estimated Cost of Degree (Average)

Net Lifetime Benefit (lifetime income – cost of degree)

High School Graduate

 

47

$28,800

$2,400

1,353,600

$0.00

$1,353,600.

Associate Degree

 

45

$35,400

$2,950

1,593,000

$4,000

$1,589,000

Bachelor’s Degree

43

$46,300

$3,858

2,083,500

$32,000

$2,051,500

Master’s Degree

 

42

$55,300

$4,608

2,377,900

$40,000

$2,337,900

Doctorate

 

37

$70,500

$5,875

2,608,500

$58,000

$2,550,500

Professional (Doctor, Lawyer)

 

37

$80,200

$6,683

2,967,400

$75,000

$2,892,400

From the Department of Labor Statistics, 2000.

Source: Building a College Culture by Leslie Hays (Powerpoint)

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