Wednesday, May 21, 2008

How much is college worth

Megan found this letter to the editor in the U's newspaper about the poor value of going to college (emphasis mine):
Despite all that I am left, like many students, with a sizable debt. I could just accept that, pay my more than $40,000 back over the next 10 years. I could think positively about my debt, as the University loan exit interviewers suggested. But then I think, is my degree really worth almost half a million dollars? What did I pay for?
Apparently not much.

On a serious note, there has been discussion on the blogsphere lately about the value of a college degree. The bottom line - "there's never been a worse time to be a college graduate. But there's never been a worse time not to be a college graduate." Cue Kevin Drum:
  • 1973: high school grad makes $42K, college grad makes $55K.
  • 2006: high school grad makes $31K, college grad makes $61K.
The skill premium hasn't gone up because a college degree is way more lucrative than in the past. In fact, it's only slightly more lucrative over the long term and completely stagnant among recent grads. Rather, the skill premium has gone up because the value of a high school degree has cratered.
And add to that, to gain that premium almost always requires a large amount of debt and the risk that goes along with it. In the 1970s you could get a college degree and have no debt. Good luck doing that now without money in the bank or large scholarships. Here is a graph of average wages for a college grad since 2001, and you can see the drop. 

Look on the plus side, equality in gender pay is getting closer together! But not because the women are going up, the men just keep tanking. Drat. 

1 comment:

Bjorn said...

Wasn't there a time in history when going to college was about becoming a "well-rounded" citizen? Whatever that means. Has college always been about gaining skills which allow you to make more money?