Pew: Not going to college is costly

The cost of not going to college is rising, according to a Pew Research Center analysis. Four-year college graduates ages 25 to 32 who are working full time earn about $45,500, while high school-only young adults average $28,000. The $17,500 gap is a record. College graduates aren’t earning much more than they did in 1986, but wages are sliding for workers with only a high school diploma.

For-profit college students like their schools’ teaching and guidance, but not the high costs, a survey finds.

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Comments

  1. I’d be interested in the kinds of jobs the college grads are working, as far as actually requiring a college degree. I’ve read that many grads are working jobs that don’t require/need a degree, which would certainly impact those without degrees who might otherwise be doing those jobs. The graph showing the “wish I’d done this while I was in college” list should be posted in guidance offices and HS classrooms everywhere.

  2. Mark Roulo says:

    A better title for this post would be: “Not Getting a Four Year Degree is Costly”
     
    Note that for the young adult Millenials (2013), the median annual earnings (for those age 25 to 32) is:
        *) $45K for those with a four year degree,
        *) $30K for those with a two year degree or some college, and
        *) $28K for those with only a high school degree.
     
    The gap between high school and some college/2-year degree has closed a lot recently. Simply going off to college doesn’t seem to help much in terms of wages. You have to finish.
     
    But …
     
    The big edge for those with a college degree (four year? I can’t tell …) is that they are more likely to be employed at all!
     
    But, as with all of these studies, the question is: in which direction does the causality run? Does the 4-year degree increase earnings? Or are those with good habits/skills/connections/whatever most likely to graduate from a four year college?

  3. The question they should be asking is which degrees can actually lead to long term employment.

    Something tells me that most STEM degrees do exactly that, with some exceptions, and many associate’s degrees can do the same thing, esp. in fields such as automotive technology, HVAC, sonography/radiology, dental assistant/hygenist, etc.

    If you looked at the recent list of top 10 paying jobs, a majority required a degree in a STEM field.

    Bill

  4. Roger Sweeny says:

    There’s an old story. Two guys are walking through the jungle and one asks, “What would you do if a tiger attacked us?” “I’d run,” the other replies. “But you can’t outrun a tiger,” says the first. “I don’t have to outrun the tiger. I only have to outrun you.”

    In this job market, employers have a lot of candidates to choose from. If a college degree signifies that the holder has greater conscientiousness and ability to work within an organization than people who dropped out or never started, then employers will hire college graduates for bartenders or taxi drivers or all sorts of jobs that do not require a college education.

    Going to college may not give you skills for a job, but it helps you outrun the person who didn’t.

    • “If a college degree signifies that the holder has greater conscientiousness and ability to work within an organization than people who dropped out or never started, then employers will hire college graduates for bartenders or taxi drivers or all sorts of jobs that do not require a college education.”
       
      I think for many jobs that this is true only for the *first* job. After that, the potential employer cares (or should care … in my experience often does care) about how you have done so far in your career.
       
      If this is true, then the *economic* question becomes: can you find that first job in fewer than four years without the college degree? I’m guessing that for a lot of jobs the answer is, “yes.”
       
      (I’m intentionally ignoring the personal growth aspects of going to college here …)
       
      I did something a bit like this back when I was in college. I was 2+ years into a degree in chemistry when I realized that what I really wanted to do with my life was program computers. My choices broadly were:
         a) finish my degree on time and then try to get a programming job, or
         b) switch majors and add two years to my undergraduate timeline.
       
      It was pretty obvious that choice (a) would make finding the first job harder (wrong degree, no formal programming experience) and it *WAS* … but it didn’t take me two years to find that first job. And after that, none of my employers have cared that my degree is in the “wrong” major. They just care about what I’ve done and what they think I can do.
       
      I think this holds true for lots of jobs. It might be harder to find that first job w/o a degree. But will it be harder enough that four years plus the cost of college is the better deal (speaking strictly of the economics)?

      • Roger Sweeny says:

        Well, there are lots of jobs that very specifically say, “College degree required.” They don’t say, “College degree required unless you showed you are competent in your first job.”

        On a strict monetary basis, four years of college may not be a better deal. However, I think two other things push lots of people into college. One is the same reason that causes people to buy lottery tickets–the thought that you can win and get a good job that you won’t get it you don’t play. This may be a sort of magical thinking because few high school seniors have any idea exactly what that job would be.

        The second is the “consumption” aspect of college: lots of people your own age who you can do various things with, some of which probably wouldn’t be approved by your parents.