February 14, 2014
By Richard Doherty, AICUM President
Earlier this week, The Pew Research Center released The Rising Cost of Not Going to College, a report detailing the growing disparity in the Millennial generation between those with a college degree and those who did not continue their education beyond high school. According to the Pew study, Millennials (individuals born after 1980) with a bachelor’s degree and working full-time earn an average annual salary of $45,500 compared to a $28,000 average annual salary of a full-time employed Millennial with a high school education only. The study revealed only a modest income advantage for those with a two year degree or some college vs. a high school graduate.
This income gap – about $17,500 more in annual earnings for a college graduate – is significantly larger than in previous generations, Today, a Millennial with only a high school diploma earns 62% of a typical college graduate whereas a Baby Boomer with only a high school diploma in 1979 could expect to earn 77% of a college graduate at that time.
The Pew Research Center study also examined the unemployment rate of the Millennial generation and found that college graduates are faring significantly better than those with only a high school diploma. According to the study, Millennials with a college degree have a 3.8% unemployment rate. This is compared to a 12.2% unemployment rate for those with only a high school diploma. Similarly to the growing gulf in annual salary, the disparity in the unemployment rate is higher today than among previous generations.
In light of this data, it was refreshing to read that Pew also found that among the approximately two-thirds of young adults who borrowed money for college, 86% said their degrees have been, or will be, worth it.
So what does all this mean? It is further evidence that a college degree remains the most important investment one can
make in their lifetime. The data presented by the Pew Research Center directly contradicts the latest water cool perspective that the value of higher education is diminishing. As the study
shows, not only is the value of a higher education not diminishing, it continues to increase its value. In fact, beyond simple monetary and employment value, a college degree has a number of other benefits: college graduates are likely to be healthier; more civically engaged; and are more likely to be involved to a greater degree in the educational activities of their children.
However, despite the growing evidence touting the importance of a college degree, many high school graduates are still not pursuing a higher education. As a society, it is incumbent upon us to reach out to these students and encourage them to continue their education. After all, as the study shows, education beyond high school is a critically important investment in ones future.