Is College Worth It? Clearly, New Data Say

"Some newly minted college graduates struggle to find work. Others accept jobs for which they feel overqualified. Student debt, meanwhile, has topped $1 trillion. It’s enough to create a wave of questions about whether a college education is still worth it. A new set of income statistics answers those questions quite clearly: Yes, college is worth it, and it’s not even close," according to The New York Times' The Upshot blog

"For all the struggles that many young college graduates face, a four-year degree has probably never been more valuable.

The pay gap between college graduates and everyone else reached a record high last year, according to the new data, which is based on an analysis of Labor Department statistics by the Economic Policy Institute in Washington. Americans with four-year college degrees made 98 percent more an hour on average in 2013 than people without a degree. That’s up from 89 percent five years earlier, 85 percent a decade earlier and 64 percent in the early 1980s.

There is nothing inevitable about this trend. If there were more college graduates than the economy needed, the pay gap would shrink. The gap’s recent growth is especially notable because it has come after a rise in the number of college graduates, partly because many people went back to school during the Great Recession. That the pay gap has nonetheless continued growing means that we’re still not producing enough of them.

'We have too few college graduates,' says David Autor, an M.I.T. economist, who was not involved in the Economic Policy Institute’s analysis. 'We also have too few people who are prepared for college.' ...

The decision not to attend college for fear that it’s a bad deal is among the most economically irrational decisions anybody could make in 2014.

The much-discussed cost of college doesn’t change this fact. According to a paper by Mr. Autor published Thursday in the journal Science, the true cost of a college degree is about negative $500,000. That’s right: Over the long run, college is cheaper than free. Not going to college will cost you about half a million dollars."

NASFAA's "Financial Aid in the News" section highlights media coverage of financial aid to help members stay up to date with the latest news. Inclusion in Today's News does not imply endorsement of the material or guarantee the accuracy of information presented.