Is College Worth It? 2 New Reports Say Yes

Career College Central summary:

  • College Summit, a nonprofit group that promotes broader college access, has released its report, “Smart Shoppers: The End of the ‘College for All’ Debate?.” The report notes that people have for years predicted a glut of “overeducated” Americans, an environment where college graduates would not be able to get jobs that reflected their years in higher education. But the opposite has happened, the report says: There is more demand for college education in the workplace, and college graduates in fields that might not normally require college—like plumbing or hairdressing—make substantially more. The report puts the college wage premium—the amount that college graduates make compared with mere high-school graduates—at 80 percent.
  • However, another new report, from three researchers, examines the question again, with a closer look at economic outcomes and more ambivalence. It considers the individual and societal economic returns of a bachelor’s degree, using data from California’s higher-education system.
  • The paper, “The Economics of B.A. Ambivalence: The Case of California Higher Education,” was written by Alan Benson, an assistant professor in the Carlson School of Management at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities; Frank S. Levy, an emeritus professor of urban studies and planning at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; and Raimundo Esteva, a former research assistant at MIT. The authors, members of the Scholars Strategy Network, say that many past assessments of the return on investment for a college degree have been overly optimistic because those studies assumed that the students were graduating within four years. The authors also say the studies might have overestimated the potential earnings because they looked only at pretax salaries and because they didn’t account for variability in pay.

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