Is a college degree worth it? Data-backed response to the Wall Street Journal (2023)

A recent Wall Street Journal poll found that 56% of Americans believe the cost of 4 years of college isn't worth it.

We show why for many people studying is worth it, as long as they choose the right course and a valuable school.

Use our guide to help you determine if it's worth studying.

A recent poll conducted byWall Street Journal(subscription required) and research organization NORC at the University of Chicago revealed that 56% of Americans believe that a 4-year degree is not worth the financial burden.

Is a college degree worth it? Data-backed response to the Wall Street Journal (1)

Participants were asked whether they agreed or disagreed with the following statement:

"A four-year college education isn't worth it because people often graduate without specific job skills and have a lot of debt to pay off."

The results of the survey follow a well-established trend: the perceived value of a four-year degree has changed over time. factors such asexorbitant tuition feesand student debt, as well as an uncertain economy and changing labor market demands, have called into question the value of a university degree.

In such a climate, making informed decisions about education andprioritizing universities and programs with a proven positive return on investment (ROI) is more important than ever. Unfortunately, most university rankings do not provide.

Return on investment (ROI) of universities and school rankings

Perhaps you've heard ofrecent reviewsuniversities that include giants in the so-calledUS news.US newsbegan classifying colleges for the first time in 1983. It was a different world back then: the first Mario Bros. arcade game had just come out, and college wascheaper.

U.S. News ratings were and still are based on factors such as "student selectivity", "alumni endowments" and "teacher salaries". Prestigious and expensive universities are at the top of their list, and a university's ROI is not a ranking factor. It's an outdated ranking model and that's why it's under attack.

Students can no longer afford to go to college based on the vague promise of future success; they need to know that the money they invest in studies will really pay off.

A lot has changed since 1983. Students can no longer afford to go to college based on some vague promise of future success - they need to know that the money they put into college will really pay off, but traditional college rankings don't deliver that. type of information

OurROI approach to university rankingsis based on data from the Department of Education. To help prospective students and parents decide if a (particular) university is worth the money, we look at factors such as:

  1. the cost of tuition after taking into account scholarships and scholarships
  2. how quickly students graduate
  3. How much do college graduates earn

Is it worth going to college? depends on the university

According to our data, for most people, college is worth it, unless you choosebad school. Within 3 years of completing one of theTop 100 public universitiesaverage student:

  • Earn at least twice the average high school graduate salary, and in many cases well above the national median wage of $45,760.
  • You got back what you invested in the universitywith the extra money they earned compared to a high school graduate.

We will refer to these 2 factors as the return on investment in the university. While college return on investment varies greatly depending on the school you choose, your field of study can play an even bigger role.

ROI of the university and the choice of specialization

The WSJ article presenting the results of the College Value Survey includes several "case studies" involving people who regret having graduated from college. One example is a woman who earned a bachelor's degree in horse science from a private liberal arts school in 2003. He graduated with $85,000 in student loan debt and few career prospects. Twenty years later, she earns $36,000 a year as a dialysis technician and her student debt has increased to $145,000.

While the WSJ journalists chose a sensational example to show, it proves right. Hismain collegehas a big impact on the "real" ROI of a title.

Your field of study has a large impact on the "real" ROI of your degree.

The reality is that some careers pay much less than others, and unfortunately salaries do not always match the importance or importance of the profession.

  • With a bachelor's degree in pedagogy, you will earn an average of $37,414 three years after college and about $61,000 long term if you become a teacher.
  • With an engineering degree, you will earn an average of $70,786 three years after graduation and over $80,000 as a long-term engineer.

Does this mean you shouldn't consider a career in teaching and that we should all flock to STEM studies? Absolutely not.

But that means you needcarefully consider your options and assess your risks before taking out a student loan. In the next section, we'll show you how.

The paradoxical value of a university diploma

Let's go back to 1983. (cues"Total Eclipse of the Heart by Bonnie Tyler.) Apart from the cost of studying, something else was completely different back then. You could do most of the workwithout a college degree. If you had a title, you stood out from the competition. Today, about half of all jobsrequire a bachelor's degreeand having it became much more common. This gives you one more degreeimportant(more likely to need it) but less sovaluable(do not tick if you have).

Is getting even more education the answer? Sometimes yes. Does your employer subsidize all or part of your MBA studies? Sounds like a good deal. But getting a master's degree or even a bachelor's degree without understanding the economic outcomes? Maybe not so smart.

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Should I go to college? Questions to help you decide

Here are some key things to think about to help you decide if college is worth it and maximize the return on your degree investment.

What job do you want after graduation?

Talk to friends and family and a career counselor andtry a personality assessmentto help you decide. At this early stage, you don't need to focus on salaries. Instead, think about what makes you happy and what you're good at. To find out if there is a high demand for a job you are interested in, you can browseBureau of Labor Statisticswebsite.

Do I need a university degree to do this job?

If you don't need a degree to get your dream job, it might be a good idea to get into a major first and then consider studying later on, if at all.

Let's say you want to work with horses like the unlucky guy in the WSJ article. One of the best paying careers you can choose isbecome a veterinarian. It will take him about 8 years as he needs a PhD and will need to be good at math and science to get into veterinary school.

If all you care about is being around horses, you can become a ranch worker earning around$14 per hour. Should you get a bachelor's degree in farm animal services to become a ranch worker? Probably not. You can only do this with a high school diploma or GED, and a bachelor's degree would cost you around $84,816. The return on investment would also take 19.3 years (the average for all undergraduate degrees is 3.8 years).

Do you need a 4 year degree?

If not, consider a degree orTrade school. These programs are typically offered at a fraction of the cost and time investment of a 4-year degree. There are several well-paying and demanding jobs you can pursue with a 2-year degree or a trade school diploma, includingEngineering technicianand dental hygienistlegal assistant. You always cantransfer credits to a bachelor's degreeif you decide to develop your career.

Do you need a specific specialization?

Some specializations are "professional" and are needed for certain jobs. win this titleneedyou get a jobto wantIt will almost always pay off in the long run if you choose a high value school.

For example, to become a social worker you needBSc in social work accredited by CSWE. Choosea social work program with a high return on investmentand you'll be well on your way to a stable career. It may take a little longer for your degree to "pay off" than, say, an engineering degree, but social workers earn above the national average after a few years of career and are always in demand.

If you don't need a specific degree, you have a few options:

  1. Choose a university with a high ROIthat meets your other criteria (for example, located in your state or offersgood financial help) and don't worry too much about what you specialize in.
  2. Choose a high ROI program that aligns with your interests. let's say you wantbecome a psychologist. A psychology degree costs approximately $35,412 three years after graduation. Instead, you can do a bachelor's degree in cognitive science or human resources (both pay around $47,000). Then, if you still want to become a psychologist, you can get a PhD (iyou won't need a bachelor's degree in psychologyTo do this). Or you can enter the workforce and probably earn much more than someone with a degree in psychology.

Choose the best university for your chosen program. Let's say you want to do that psychology degree anyway. Knowing that this is a fairly low ROI title makes choosing a high value school even more important. To wearevaluation of our programto help you see which schools have a high return on investment in your chosen major.

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Is a college degree worth it? Data-backed response to the Wall Street Journal (2)

Students need tools, not scaremongers

In today's United States, college is a major financial decision. Unfortunately, it is not always treated with the seriousness it deserves. A Wall Street Journal study reveals a disturbing reality: many people went to college without a clear vision of their future or knowing if they could earn enough to pay off their student loans.

But since most professions require a 4-year degree,dropping out of college is not a viable option for many people. Instead of instilling fear, prospective students need effective tools to help them determine if college is the right choice for them andwhich schools and programs are really "worth".

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Is a college degree worth it statistics? ›

Bachelor's degree holders generally earn 75% more than those with just a high school diploma, according to “The College Payoff,” a report from the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce — and the higher the level of educational attainment, the larger the payoff.

Is a college degree worth incurring significant debt? ›

I can tell that I believe that college is more than worth it. Even with all the costs and the potential debt, college is worth it. People who go on to college are proven to get better paying and stable jobs. With these jobs comes more benefits like insurance, pension, and other perks to the job.

How much does where you got your degree matter? ›

While the name of your school isn't likely to land you a job, you'll want to be sure that your degree is from an accredited institution. Employers want to feel confident, knowing you've received a quality education and will bring the skills you developed as an undergraduate student to the table if offered a position.

Is a college degree worth it in 2023? ›

Going to college in 2023 is worth it for individuals who want access to more higher-paying jobs after graduating between 2027 and 2029. It's ideal for those who want higher lifetime earnings, too.

What percentage of college students fail statistics? ›

Graduation Rate

57% of students delay their four-year courses while 33% of them drop out (ThinkImpact, 2021). 36% of students from private universities graduate on time while 17% do in public or non-flagship colleges, (Admissionsly, 2021).

Do colleges prefer calculus or statistics? ›

But for many other students, calculus isn't the math course that will most help them—the right course often is statistics. But most admissions counselors have favored calculus (in many cases informally), the report says, and that hurts students.

What degree is the most in debt? ›

Master's Degree Debt by Major

The majority of student debt in the nation is accrued by graduate degree students.

How many people end up not using their degree? ›

Roughly one-fifth of recent graduates, 21%, are working in jobs, either full or part-time, that aren't related to their major area of study.

What percent of college graduates end up in debt? ›

Many students borrow to fund a portion of their college expenses. Each year, 30 to 40 percent of all undergraduate students take federal student loans; 70 percent of students who receive a bachelor's degree have education debt by the time they graduate.

Do most companies actually check your degree? ›

An educational background verification is a necessary component of many background checks when applying for a job. While checking and verifying an applicant's education credentials may be an extra step in the hiring process, a complete background check helps employers identify and hire great talent.

Do most jobs check your degree? ›

Education credentials employers most often verify

“This is especially true for the first job or two out of college. Over time, employers may value the experience and skills you bring over where you went to school and what kind of degree you have, but those things are key when starting out.”

How many jobs actually check your degree? ›

So, Do Employers Check Degrees? Only about 34 percent of employers check the educational qualifications listed on resumes, according to a 2004 study by the Society for Human Resource Management—even though the association found that 25 percent of people inflated their educational achievements on resumes.

What percentage of people regret dropping out of college? ›

When we asked 1,000 college dropouts with educational debt, “Do you regret dropping out of college?” almost three-fourths, 70.60 percent, of them said “yes.” Only 14.10 percent of poll participants claimed they had not regretted their decisions to leave college before graduating.

What major has the highest dropout rate? ›

While students choose to drop out of college for many reasons, including cost, time commitment, and coursework difficulty, the major they choose also has an impact. Students who major in computer science tend to have the highest dropout rate, followed by advertising and agriculture majors.

Why do so many students fail college? ›

A surprisingly large number of college freshmen have extremely poor time-management skills, which can lead to more time spent partying than studying, which is the main cause of failing tests. All of these are causes of the students ultimately flunking out of college.

Do college graduates make more money statistics? ›

Typical earnings for bachelor's degree holders are $36,000 or 84 percent higher than those whose highest degree is a high school diploma. College graduates on average make $1.2 million more over their lifetime.

Why a college degree is important statistics? ›

Compared with individuals whose highest degree is a high school diploma, bachelor's degree holders are 24 percent more likely to be employed, 3.5x less likely to impoverished, and nearly 5x less likely to be imprisoned.

Is statistics 1 in college hard? ›

How Hard is Statistics? Statistics is mandatory for many college programs. Learning it can be more difficult than other college math courses. This is due to the different concepts introduced in statistics, including descriptive and inferential statistics that are not typically used in other math courses.

How much do college degrees pay statistics? ›

The average American with a bachelor's degree earns about $80,500 per year, while the average American with only a high school diploma earns about $40,000 per year.
Income by education level.
Education LevelAverage Income
Bachelor's degree or more$91,892
Master's degree$98,268
Professional degree$151,348
Doctoral degree$141,178
6 more rows
Oct 17, 2022

What percent of people who go to college actually graduate? ›

The 6-year graduation rate was 63 percent at public institutions, 68 percent at private nonprofit institutions, and 29 percent at private for-profit institutions. The overall 6-year graduation rate was 60 percent for males and 67 percent for females.

Is 75k out of college good? ›

While people have different qualifications and different ideas of what constitutes a good salary, most would consider $75,000 per year to be good pay. Luckily, whether a person is just starting out in a new role or already has some experience, there are indeed many opportunities in this pay range.

What percentage of college graduates are successful? ›

Report Highlights: In 2019, those who've obtained their bachelor's degree or higher had an employment rate of 87% for both genders, 91% for males, and 83% for females.


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