Report: College pays for taxpayers

California reaps $4.50 in benefits — higher taxes and less social welfare spending — for every $1 invested in the state’s universities, concludes California’s Economic Payoff: Investing in College Access & Completion, a Berkeley report for The Campaign for College Opportunity. The study did not look at the state’s investment in community colleges.

The return for college graduates is $4.80, twice the return for those who complete some college but don’t earn a degree.

In 20105, relative to those with only a high school degree, those completing at least a Baccalaureate of Arts (BA) can expect to spend an additional seven years working. While working, they will earn more; between the ages of 25 and 64 they can anticipate earning an additional $1.3 million in wages and salary, and receive more than an additional $1.5 million in total personal income, which includes all other income from sources such as rentals, investments, or transfer programs.

These college “completers” will also put fewer demands on the state’s safety net. On average, they are likely to spend two fewer years receiving aid, four fewer years in poverty, and will spend 10 fewer months incarcerated. As might be expected, the recession has widened the gulf between the more highly educated and those with only a high school degree (or less).

Of course, there’s a big difference in academic performance and motivation between people who never enroll in college, those who start but don’t finish and those who earn a bachelor’s degree.  If more low-achieving students enrolled in college or more marginal students completed a degree, they wouldn’t be likely to do as well as the high achievers.

About Joanne


  1. Richard Aubrey says:


    • Helping millions of college students fund their degree(s) – even temporarily through loans – is an investment, and all investments come with risk. For some of those people, it pays off handsomely for the taxpayer; for others, not so much; and for others, it’s a waste of money. But it’s worth the risk and in the long term it pays off overall.

  2. That’s nothing. The University of Washington gives back
    22 dollars for every dollar invested.

    (It must be true. I heard it on public television.)

  3. Roger Sweeny says:

    Young people who play on their high school basketball team are on average 5 inches taller than young people who don’t. For the small amount of money that it would take to increase the size of the basketball team to include the whole school, WE COULD MAKE EVERY STUDENT FIVE INCHES TALLER.

    Since it is well known that taller people tend to make more money, this would pay for itself many times over. And think what it would do for the self-esteem of the shortest members of the class. When a boy goes from 5’2″ to 5’7″ or a girl goes from 4’11” to 5’4″, it means a lot.

    • Sean Mays says:

      Roger: I agree, let’s give every child should be given Human Growth Hormone treatments, gratis, until they achieve basketball squad height. Of course, 50% of children will still be below median height, we’ll need to remedy that soon; am open to suggestions.

      We also need to lower IQ at the top end. People more than 2 sigma above the average are over represented in prison.

      • Roger Sweeny says:

        Sean, you miss the point. It is not Human Growth Hormone that makes them tall. It is being on the team, getting instruction from the coaches, being around tall people, and all the intangibles that are part of being on a basketball team. It is well established that when short high schoolers do not share a basketball team experience with tall high schoolers, they almost always stay short.

      • Mark Roulo says:

        I’m feeling snarky today …

        “Of course, 50% of children will still be below median height, we’ll need to remedy that soon; am open to suggestions.”

        We could use “height bands.” Say, 5′ to 5’4″ as one band. By choosing carefully our “height bands,” we can arrange for less than 50% of the kids to be below median height.

        The problem with height bands is that we won’t get more than 50% of the kids *above* average in height, which should be the goal.

        My inclination is to just redefine “median height.”

        • Richard Aubrey says:

          If you guys had spent any time studying the classics, or Chicago, you’d know about Procrustes.
          Jeez. Do I have to do everything around here?

          • Sean Mays says:

            Richard: The Procrustean solution requires that they have a bed. Nowhere in the Constitution is there any authorization that the government supply beds. This would be an unwarranted expansion in the scope of government. Also, what about people who prefer futons? Disparate impact on height outcomes based on sleeping technology choices cannot be tolerated.

          • Mark Roulo says:

            “Nowhere in the Constitution is there any authorization that the government supply beds.”

            You can do pretty much whatever you want with the interstate commerce clause …

  4. Richard Aubrey says:

    You guys missed again. The procrusteed people did not have to supply their own beds. The bed was supplied by the government as was right and proper.