Is College Worth It? Let’s Do The Math

With college tuition continually on the rise and many degrees failing to guarantee employment, many wonder if college is worth the time, effort, and resources. Liberals are eager to convince us that without a college degree our future is bleak. They tell us to expect very few job opportunities, poor health, and even a shorter life expectancy. While studies have shown that college graduates tend to be “healthy, wealthy, and wise”, this is not the full picture. In this post, I will explore the Liberal’s arguments. In my next post, I will discuss why college might not be the right option for you after all.

Despite the costs of time, effort, and money, gaining a college education does have significant and noteworthy benefits. On average, college graduates have more and better employment opportunities, make more money, and tend to lead happier, healthier and more productive lives. The phrase, “healthy, wealthy, and wise” may be cliché, but in this case, it does apply to most college graduates when compared to their less-educated peers.

Perhaps the most obvious benefit of being a college graduate is that you tend to make more money. According to data from the U.S. Census Bureau and the Bureau of Labor Statistics at the U.S. Department of Labor, “…students who receive a Bachelor’s degree or a more advanced degree have, on average, more than twice the income of high school drop-outs and students with just a high school diploma…Bachelor’s degree recipients have estimated life-time earnings that are more than a $1 million greater than the lifetime earnings of people with just a high school diploma.” 1* If being financially self-reliant is important to you, then graduating college should be on your bucket list.

While the financial benefit of going to college is often overstated, it is important to know that the, “cost of not going to college has risen.” According to a Pew Research study, “Millennials with just a high school diploma are faring worse today than their counterparts in earlier generations by almost every economic measure examined.” 2* Keep this and the graph below in mind the next time you are about to dismiss the financial benefits of going to college.


College graduates also have more and better employment opportunities than those without a college degree. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, those who obtain a bachelor’s degree or higher have “…half the unemployment rate of people with just a high school diploma.” 1* The truth of the matter is, more and more jobs are requiring college degrees. In fact, “only 34% of American jobs require a high school diploma or less in 2017, compared to 72% in the 1970s…. According to a June 2016 study, 99% of job growth (or 11.5 million of 11.6 million jobs) between 2010 and 2016 went to workers with associate’s degrees, bachelor’s, or graduate degrees.” 3* More and better employment opportunities also means going to college helps to reduce poverty and the burden on tax payers. College graduates are also more likely to have health insurance and retirement plans. In 2008, 70% of college graduates had access to employer-provided health insurance compared to 50% of high school graduates. 3* This means most college graduates tend to be more economically valuable and less burdensome to society.

Henry Bienan, PhD, President of Northwestern University, argues that a college education results in “greater productivity, lower crime, better health, [and] better citizenship for more educated people.” 2* Studies have even found that college graduates are more likely to do volunteer work (43% compared to 19% of high school graduates) and donate blood (9% compared to 4% of high school graduates and 2% of high school drop-outs). 3*   A Pew Research Study found that, “…college-educated Millennials also have lower unemployment and poverty rates than their less-educated peers. They’re also more likely to be married and less likely to be living in their parent’s home.”



Psychologist Laura Carstensen, director of the Stanford Center on Longevity stated, “I think most social scientists would put their money on education as the most important factor in ensuring longer lives,” Scientists and other experts also claimed in a paper published earlier this year by the National Bureau of Economic Research, “Education not only predicts mortality in the U.S., it is also a large predictor of health in most countries, regardless of their level of development.” Experts have found that there is as much as a seven-year gap in life expectancy between high school and college graduates. 4*


While college may be expensive and a major sacrifice of time and effort, experts and college graduates alike claim it is a worth-while investment. In fact, “…about nine-in-ten college grads in every generation say college has been, or will be, worth the investment. Despite a steep rise in college tuitions, Millennials agree.” 2* It is true that going to college is not the right option for everyone. But for many people, going to college is a tradition they intend to pass on to future generations.







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