Is college still worth the cost?

Date posted: December 5, 2011

Getting a college degree used to be a guarantee for landing a good paying job.  But no more.  Like millions of other people, many workers with college degrees have lost their jobs, and many new college graduates can’t find a job in their field.  Does this mean young people should re-evaluate? N.C. State University economist Mike Walden considers whether going to college is still worthwhile.

“I would argue that it is still worthwhile.  Now it is true — it is certainly true — that college degree workers have been hurt by the recession — just … like every profession of any occupational degree.  For example, the unemployment rate for college degree workers has gone from 2 percent before the recession to 4.2 percent today.

“But it’s much, much better than it is for high-school grads — people who stopped at high school and didn’t go to a college.  Their unemployment rate went from 4 percent now to just under 10 percent.

“It is also true that the salaries for many college grads has gone down.  But if you look at what kind of additional salary a college grad is likely to make over a work career — for example, working 40 years — right now for a male college grad, that additional salary working over 40 years compared to what he would have earned stopping in high school is about $900,000.  And for a female college grad, it’s about $750,000. … The reason for the difference is because males and females college grads go into different professions.

“One final point … North Carolina ranks sixth among all the states in being one of the most generous in financially assisting college students.”

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