5 Reasons You Need to Go to College

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Source: Flickr user Yeungb

When the going gets tough, the tough go to college. New government data released this week highlights the stark opportunity gap between those who go to college and those who don't. Here are five reasons higher education is the best way to go.

1. Your competition is going
The days of heading into the working world straight from high school are gone. Regardless of whether or not anyone learns anything in college, there's something to be said for simply keeping up with the competition. A full 66% of recent high school graduates are currently attending university, making college the status quo for 2 million of the 3 million recent high school alumni.

2.  You're not ready to work


Suzzallo Library at University of Washington. Source: Flickr user Wonderlane

No one's saying that sitting through lectures and studying through the night is easy, but going to college isn't work. While 74% of recent high school grads either have a job or are looking for one, only 34% of college students count themselves in that category. Financial aid, tax breaks, and student loans are all there to keep kids in college -- regardless of employment. And with higher future expected earnings, most college students are OK with delaying work today in order to reap more impressive returns after graduation.

3. But you want to work eventually
When it comes to future employment opportunities, a college degree goes a long way. The unemployment rate for recent high school graduates clocks in at a whopping 31% -- almost five times the national 6.7% rate. Even with its rock-bottom economy, Spain enjoys a lower national unemployment rate (25.6%) than the U.S.' recent high school alumni. And for those Americans currently in college, their employment odds are already improving. The unemployment rate for enrolled college students drops down to 8.6%.

4. And you want to make more money

Victor Dubreuil, Money to Burn (1893).

These days, a job by itself is reason to celebrate. But a closer look at the earnings gaps between high school and college grads should be enough to make any aspiring college student review their applications one more time. According to the latest government data on wages and salaries, high school graduates age 25 and over earn an average of $660 per week, compared to $1,199 for college grads

 According to 2008 U.S. Census Bureau data, over their working lives, high school grads earn an average of $1.4 million, while bachelor degree holders make another $1 million on top of that. Add on a master's degree and you can expect to earn another $400,000. And a Ph.D.? On average, that will earn you $3.4 million throughout your lifetime.

5. You actually want to learn
Ironically, it seems as if learning is increasingly an afterthought in higher education. Employment and earnings aspirations aside, a college education can provide you with an exciting environment for intellectual stimulation. Personal edification is important -- and whether it's art, engineering, or economics, academia provides a unique opportunity to let you explore your passion for years to come.

Don't forget your future
College can set you up for wealthy working years, but it's not the only way to boost your retirement income. In our brand-new free report, our retirement experts give their insight on a simple strategy to take advantage of a little-known IRS rule that can help ensure a more comfortable retirement for you and your family. Click here to get your copy today.

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  • Report this Comment On April 26, 2014, at 3:30 PM, RachelLachance wrote:

    Rather than using college as a way for students to get a trade or a vocation we need to revise high school so that students can have an apprenticeship or a vocational education. We have forgotten that average doesn't mean stupid and that college is not for everyone. No one who doesn't want to go to college should be forced into it because our educational system fails to equip him or her with the skills for finding and keeping a decent job. This is part of what the common core is about. We need to expand our definition of a good high school education back to what it was in the mid 20th century: one that allowed people to hold responsible positions and let them have a good middle class life.

    I have medical school debt, but if I can't pay back my student loans it's my own fault. Even if I'm going to be paying them off for 30 years they will be paid off. I may not have an Audi or Mercedes but I have a job that I love and enough coin to drive a used Toyota, insure it for cheap ($25/month at Insurance Panda) and take care of my family. I'm sorry that I'm not sorry that the average American can't have a luxury vehicle.

  • Report this Comment On April 27, 2014, at 2:39 PM, tjvossler wrote:

    How is not going to college worse that what I am going through. You don't seem to actually understand anything.

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