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The Value Of A College Education

It costs a lot to go to college or university and the increasing costs have many wondering if there is real value to a college education. Is the cost of tuition, the time lost to full-time employment, and the thousands of dollars of debt worth the investment? Those are good questions and the answers may lie in a review of the value of a college education and rates of return on investment to both the individual and to society.

On the financial side of the equation there is significant data to suggest that on average and over time a college graduate will earn a great deal more than a high school graduate. The United States Census bureau estimates that over a lifetime a college graduate will earn on average about $2.1 million dollars compared to an average lifetime income of $1.2 million dollars for a high school graduate.

Compared with the cost of attending a four year public university of college at an average of about $10,000 per year and even adding the cost of lost working time, it is clearly of financial value to attend university.

But college graduates also enjoy other benefits in addition to the possibility of increased earning power. In 1998 the Institute for Higher Education Policy published a report that stated that people who completed a college or university program experienced a number of ancillary benefits. They included higher levels of saving, increased personal/professional mobility, improved quality of life for their offspring, better consumer decision making, and more hobbies and leisure activities.

Another report published by the Carnegie Foundation noted some other benefits of higher education that included the tendency for postsecondary students to become more open-minded, more cultured, more rational, more consistent and less authoritarian and that these benefits are also passed along to succeeding generations.

A college education can even improve your health and a number of research studies have shown positive correlation between completion of higher education and good health, not only for oneself, but also for one's children.

There is also benefit and value to the public from higher education. According to the Institute for Higher Education these benefits include increased tax revenues, greater workplace productivity, increased consumption, increased workforce flexibility, and decreased reliance on government financial support.

So it appears that even after rigorous scientific review and analysis there is still much value in a college education. But I think we knew that all along.


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