But that misses one critically important thing Americans need to know: The true benefits of college have only grown.
The remarkable benefits
In a series exploring the debate surrounding a college education, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York provided a fascinating post that examines the true value of a higher-education degree.
It examined all the underlying data surrounding the actual costs of earning a degree, which of course include tuition and fees, but also lost wages by going to classes instead of working. And it then determined the expected earnings of someone with a bachelor's degree versus a high school degree for the 40 years after graduation.
What was the ultimate result? Authors Jaison Abel and Richard Deitz found: "Despite what appears to be a set of alarming trends, the value of a bachelor's degree for the average graduate has held near its all-time high of about $300,000 for more than a decade."
And as you can see in the chart below, the study showed:
The authors went on to say:
We estimate that the value of a college degree fell from about $120,000 in the early 1970s to about $80,000 in the early 1980s, before more than tripling to nearly $300,000 by the late 1990s, where it has remained, more or less, ever since. Despite drifting down somewhat in the aftermath of the Great Recession, the value of a bachelor's degree has remained near its all-time high.
In an even more stunning point, the authors found -- what many have failed to mention in taking on this issue -- that although the costs of college are rising, the time it takes to a student to recover those expenses and earn a positive return on that investment plummeted in the 1980s and has remained basically steady since:
We often hear questions surrounding the true benefits of college. Many of them are appropriate. However, the Pew Research Center, in a study appropriately titled "The Rising Cost of Not Going to College," revealed how the salary gap between those with and without a degree has widened through successive generations:
Is this all to say American youths should blindly pursue college degrees? Absolutely not.
PayScale reported that there are far too many schools -- nearly 60, to be exact -- in which students actually might lose money as a result of paying tuition for a degree that doesn't actually pay off.
But by and large, all the evidence points to the fact that the one thing more expensive than a degree is not having one. This data from the Federal Reserve is one more bit of proof to remember.
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