For anyone considering going to college who is blinded by the high costs, the light at the end of the tunnel after graduating with a bachelor’s degree and improving their education is pretty bright.
College graduates are more likely to find jobs, make more money, and be in jobs that are unionized and offer retirement plans than workers with only high school diplomas, among other benefits.
Millennial college graduates (born after 1980) who usually worked full time in 2012 earned $45,500 per year, compared to others in their age group who graduated from high school and earned $28,000, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data. Those with two-year degrees or some college earned $30,000.
The earnings gap adds up over a lifetime, with a bachelor’s degree worth $2.8 million on average, according to a report from the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce. That’s 84 percent more in lifetime earnings than those with only a high school diploma.
Even within the same occupation, more education equates to more money. Truck drivers with less than a high school education make $1.3 million over a lifetime, the Georgetown study found, compared with $1.5 million for truck drivers with a high school diploma. Elementary and middle school teachers with a bachelor’s degree make $1.8 million over their working lives, compared to $2.2 million for those with a master’s degree.
High college loans
That extra money will be needed by college graduates to pay off the average student debt of $28,950 at graduation. That amount of debt is 56 percent higher than it was in 2004, according to a report by the Institute for College Access and Success.
The average cost of tuition and fees for the 2014-15 school year was $31,231 at private colleges, $9,139 for state residents at public colleges, and $22,958 for out-of-state residents at public universities, according to the College Board. That doesn’t include room and board, ranging from $9,804 at four-year public schools to $11,188 at private schools.
While college-educated workers can have more difficulty finding work today than earlier generations of young adults did, once they’re employed, their earnings are higher than other generations of college-educated adults, the Pew Research Center found.
More education helps in many ways
Here are some other ways that college grads fare better than those with a high school diploma, according to the Pew Research Center data:
Higher household income: Millennials in 2013 with a bachelor’s degree or more had a median adjusted household income of $89,079, about $50,000 more than the $39,842 for high school graduates.
Less poverty: In 2013, 6 percent of college-educated 25- to 32-year-olds were living in poverty, compared to 22 percent of those with a high school education.
Higher net worth: Wealth is a household’s nest egg or what it has been able to save over the years to help during unemployment or other adversity. It’s the value of what is owned minus what it owes. The median net worth of households headed by 25- to 32-year-olds with a bachelor’s degree was $26,058 in 2011, or eight times as much as the $3,137 of high school grads.
Less unemployment: In 2013, 12.2 percent of Millennials with only a high school education were looking for work, eight percentage points higher than the rate for college-educated Millennials.
The college grads also look for work for less time. The average unemployed college-educated Millennial looked for work for 27 weeks in 2013, four weeks less than those without a college degree.
Working full time: In 2013, 89 percent of employed college-educated Millennials worked full time o at least 35 hours per week, compared with 82 percent of high school grads.
Union jobs: Some 14 percent of college-educated Millennials worked in a unionized workplace in 2013, compared to 6 percent of high school grads.
More in retirement plans: Sixty-one percent of these young workers with a bachelor’s degree or better were offered a pension or retirement plan by their employer, compared to 36 percent for high school graduates.