What Is College Worth? asks John Cassidy in The New Yorker. Despite increasing costs, the number of young people going to college keeps going up, he writes.
Some 70 percent of high school graduates enroll in college and half of Americans between 25 and 34 have a college degree.
“College has been life changing for most people and a tremendous financial investment for many of them,” writes Peter Cappelli, a professor of management at Wharton, in his new book, Will College Pay Off? Yet, for some, “it has been financially crippling.”
The “college wage premium” has stopped growing, writes Cassidy.
In 2001, according to theEconomic Policy Institute, a liberal think tank in Washington, workers with undergraduate degrees (but not graduate degrees) earned, on average, $30.05 an hour; last year, they earned $29.55 an hour.
Other sources show even more dramatic falls. “Between 2001 and 2013, the average wage of workers with a bachelor’s degree declined 10.3 percent, and the average wage of those with an associate’s degree declined 11.1 percent,” the New York Fed reported in its study.
New graduates with bachelor’s degrees have been hit hard by falling wages and rising unemployment. Non-graduates are doing even worse, but that’s little comfort.
“The big news about the payoff from college should be the incredible variation in it across colleges,” Cappelli writes. “The payoff from many college programs—as much as one in four—is actually negative. Incredibly, the schools seem to add nothing to the market value of the students.”