Top Pro & Con Arguments
Jobs increasingly require college degrees and college allows students to explore careers and earn better job placements.
Only 34% of American jobs required a high school diploma or less in 2017, compared to 72% in the 1970s. During the recession between Dec. 2007 and Jan. 2010, jobs requiring college degrees grew by 187,000, while jobs requiring some college or an associate’s degree fell by 1.75 million and jobs requiring a high school degree or less fell by 5.6 million. According to researchers at Georgetown University, 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 degrees or graduate degrees.
Colleges offer career services, internships, job shadowing, job fairs, and volunteer opportunities in addition to a wide variety of courses that may provide a career direction. Over 80% of college students complete internships before graduation, giving them valuable employment experience before entering the job market. Colleges provide networking value.
Harvard Business School estimates that 65 to 85% of jobs are acquired through networking. College students can join fraternities and sororities, clubs, and teams as well as participate in a variety of social functions to meet new people and network with possible business connections. Internships offered through colleges often lead to mentors or useful contacts within a student’s preferred field. Many colleges offer social media workshops, networking tips, career-related consultation, and alumni networks.
Meanwhile, college graduates have more and better employment opportunities. 85.2% of college freshmen said they attended college to “be able to get a better job.” The unemployment rate for Americans over 25 with a bachelor’s degree was 1.9% in Dec. 2019, compared to 2.7% for those with some college or associate’s degrees, 3.7% for high school graduates, and 5.2% for high school drop-outs. Underemployment, meaning insufficient work, is lower for college grads (6.2%) as compared to high school-only graduates (12.9%) and people without a high school diploma (18.7%). 58% of college graduates and people with some college or associate’s degrees reported being “very satisfied” with their jobs compared to 50% of high school graduates and 40% of people without a high school diploma.
Thus, college graduates make more money. The average college graduate makes $570,000 more than the average high school graduate over a lifetime. Career earnings for college graduates are 71% to 136% higher than those of high school graduates. The Federal Reserve Bank of New York calculated a 14% rate of return on a bachelor’s degree, which constitutes a good investment. College graduates earn an average of $78,000, a 75% wage premium over the average $45,000 annual earnings for workers with only a high school diploma. 85% of Forbes’ America’s 400 Richest People list were college grads.
And, because college graduates are more likely to have better jobs with better salaries, they are also more likely to have health insurance and retirement plans. 70% of college graduates had access to employer-provided health insurance compared to 50% of high school graduates in 2008. 70% of college graduates 25 years old and older had access to retirement plans in 2008 compared to 65% of associate’s degree holders, 55% of high school graduates, and 30% of people who did not complete high school.
All of that means a college education has a high return as an investment. Return on investment (ROI) is calculated by dividing the gain from an investment (here the money earned as a result of a college degree) by the cost of the investment (the money spent on a college degree). A college degree has a return of 15% per year as an investment, larger than the stock market (6.8%) and housing (0.4%). Completing some college, but not earning a degree, resulted in a 9.1% return on investment. If a student spent $17,860 (the average cost of tuition and room and board in 2012-2013 for four years at a public university), that student could expect a 15% return of $2,679 each year. According to a 2011 Pew Research survey, 86% of college graduates believed college was a good personal investment.Read More