The Economics of a Bachelor’s Degree

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Is getting a bachelor’s degree still worth it? When weighing the pros and cons of higher education, there are a lot of things to consider. Let’s look at what the numbers say about getting a bachelor’s degree.

Economics of a Bachelor's Degree
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Bachelor’s Degrees are Worth $1 Million Over Life of Career

College graduates earn an average of almost $20,000 more per year than workers with only a high school diploma. That adds up to $1,000,000 more over the life of a career. This means that college graduates who manage money well can retire very comfortably. By 2020, it’s estimated that 2/3 of jobs will require a college degree. In these respects, obtaining a bachelor’s degree is essential.

Getting a Bachelor’s Degree is Expensive

However, going to college has never been more expensive. Over the past 30 years, tuition costs at 4-year universities have doubled. To make things even worse, only 30% of bachelor’s degrees were covered by Pell Grants in 2015. This is the lowest amount in U.S. history and half of what was covered in 1980.

Education is most expensive when students don’t graduate. When there is no return on the college investment, former students are three times more likely to default on student loans. At risk are the 40% of all first time college students who don’t graduate within six years. A quarter of all college dropouts default on their student loans within three years.

College Graduates Have a Higher Quality of Life

The benefits of earning a bachelor’s degree go far beyond the paycheck. In addition to being on the better side of the widening wage gap between college and high school graduates, those with a bachelor’s degree also enjoy increased job security, better marriages and higher job satisfaction.

Student Debt is an Increasing Burden

Finding the money to pay for college has been getting more difficult every year. American families and students are taking on more debt than ever before to pay for the rising costs of college. The cost of college has risen faster than almost every other industry while wages remain stagnant. The average debt for a bachelor’s degree increased 2x more than the rate of inflation from 2004 to 2014. As a result, Americans owe $1.3 trillion in student debt. This debt is rising by $2,726.27 every second!

It’s easy to see that the vast majority of students in the US will graduate from college with an enormous amount of debt. The average student debt is currently $37,173. It typically takes 21 years for student borrowers to repay this debt! Almost half of graduates say if they could go back in time they would reconsider taking on debt for college. Two-thirds of Americans agree that college is too expensive and simply not affordable.

Is the Cost of College Worth it To You?

After weighing all the pros and cons, this is a question only you and your family can answer. The benefits of earning a bachelor’s degree are obvious, but come at a great cost. The best college plan includes coming up with ways to pay for school while taking on the least amount of student debt possible.