College Degrees Pay Off: Education Costs Recouped By Age 34, The Benefits Last For A Lifetime


For those wondering if college education is worth its cost, think no further. A new report from The College Board says that a college degree does pay more than just the cost of college. It also brings with it benefits that a high school diploma cannot.

The report, titled "Education Pays: The Benefits of Higher Education for Individuals and Society," looked into the variations in the earning and employment patterns of U.S. adults with different levels of education. The report authors stress that by age 34, the average bachelor's degree holder will have recouped college costs, including tuition and wages lost from not being in the workforce to study for four years.

Jennifer Ma, senior policy research scientist at the College Board and a coauthor of the report, said in a press release that college education is an investment that pays back more than just the cost of higher education. It actually pays dividends for a lifetime, even if a student incurs debt to get it.

The report, which is updated triennially or every three years, details significant and note-worthy differences between the earnings and employment rates of those who have a bachelor's degree and those who do not. Here are some of the findings:

  •  In 2015, bachelor's degree recipients aged 25 and older earned $24,000 (67%) more than those who only had high school diplomas.
  •  In 2015, although bachelor's degree-holders paid an estimated $6,900 (91%) more in taxes, they took home $17,700 (61%) more after in-tax income compared to high school graduates.
  •  In 2015, among adults aged between 25 and 64, bachelor's degree recipients were the most employed (83%), followed by those with an associate degree (77%), some college but no degree (72%), and high school graduates only (68%).
  •  In 2015, among unemployed adults aged between 25-34, only 2.6% had bachelor's degrees compared to 8.1% of those who only had high school diplomas.

The report also said that college graduates were less likely to smoke and more likely to engage in healthy habits such as exercise compared to high school graduates. Bachelor's degree recipients were also more likely to vote.

Because college degrees bring such great benefits, it must be made more accessible to many so that they can benefit from it as well, said Jessica Howell, executive director of policy research at the College Board.

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