America’s $1 trillion student loan debt and astronomical tuition costs have caused many to weigh the heavy price of attending college. As for the young adults of the Millennial generation—the most educated generation ever, widespread under- and unemployment coupled with the Great Recession have some wishing for a do-over. However, a new Pew study titled, “The Rising Cost of Not Going to College,” reveals the ultimate value and benefits of higher leaning.
In a modern, knowledge-based economy, the only thing more expensive than going to college is not going to college,” Paul Taylor, executive vice president of special projects at Pew, recently told NPR.
Here are a few highlights from the study, which analyzed a survey of 2,002 adults:
- Millennial college graduates ages 25 to 32 who are working full time earn more annually—about $17,500 more—than employed young adults holding only a high school diploma
- College-educated Millennials are more likely to be employed full time than their less-educated counterparts (89 percent vs. 82 percent) and significantly less likely to be unemployed (3.8 percent vs. 12.2 percent).
- Among the two-thirds of college-educated Millennials who borrowed money to pay for their schooling, about nine-in-ten (86 percent) say their degrees have been worth it or expect that they will be in the future
Of course, the subject in which one decides to major also plays a crucial role in how professionally and financially prepared young adults will feel in the future. Compared to social science, liberal arts or education majors, science and engineer majors were less likely to wish they had chosen a different major as an undergraduate to better prepare them for the job they wanted. Still, regardless of one’s major, about nine-in-ten Millennials with at least a bachelor’s degree say college has already paid off (72 percent) or will pay off in the future (17 percent.)
While the study thoroughly proved the economical outcomes of a college education, it also focused heavily on the historic economic disparity between those young adults with college diplomas and those without compared to the gaps of prior generations. In other words, a high school diploma is gradually becoming more and more meaningless, incomewise, given that the wage gap is increasing at the lower end of education.
Interestingly enough, race—not education—proved to have be the largest divides in the study, a disparity that speaks to the crucial educational differences found among the racial groups in the U.S. Educational advancement, as well as a lack of professional fulfillment, seemed to be recurring themes among the study’s Black demographic:
- Blacks are more likely (53 percent) than either Hispanics (39 percent) or whites (36 percent) to feel that they have more qualifications than their job requires
- Just 36 percent of blacks, Hispanics and other minorities report their major and their job are very closely related, compared to 53 percent of all non-Hispanic whites
- Blacks are significantly more likely than whites to say their current job is just something to get them by (44 percent vs. 26 percent)
- 42 percent of blacks with less than a bachelor’s degree intend to return to school, compared with 21 percent of whites with comparable education
So, while the cost of college seems to justify itself in outweighing the steadily diminishing economic incomes of non-college graduates, Black American graduates are most likely to feel overqualified in their current career, and bound to a particular job to simply make a living—even if that job is not in line with their undergraduate ambitions.
Cue the Millennial swan song.