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College is still worth every penny -- if you graduate

Yes, college is costly and student debt is on the rise. But college graduates earn 98 percent more than those without a degree.

By MSN Money Partner Jun 3, 2014 1:50PM

This post comes from Krystal Steinmetz at partner site Money Talks News.

Money Talks News on MSN MoneyRelatively sparse job openings coupled with soaring tuition and student loan debt have led many people to ask: Is college still worth the effort and cost?

The answer is a resounding yes, according to David Leonhardt of The New York Times.

College graduates © Ariel Skelley / Blend Images/Getty ImagesA new set of income statistics answers those questions quite clearly: Yes, college is worth it, and it's not even close. For all the struggles that many young college graduates face, a four-year degree has probably never been more valuable.

The pay disparity between college graduates and those without a degree reached a new high last year, the Times says. On average, Americans with a four-year college degree made 98 percent more an hour in 2013 than those without.

"The decision not to attend college for fear that it's a bad deal is among the most economically irrational decisions anybody could make in 2014," Leonhardt wrote.

MIT economist David Autor says the pay gap is a result of the U.S. not producing enough college graduates nor preparing enough students to attend college. The Times noted:

According to a paper by Mr. Autor published Thursday in the journal Science, the true cost of a college degree is about negative $500,000. That's right: Over the long run, college is cheaper than free. Not going to college will cost you about half a million dollars.

But before you hastily enroll yourself or your son or daughter in college, it's wise to carefully select a course of study and consider your probability of graduating. Forbes contributor Andrew Kelly wrote:

Blanket statements like "college is clearly worth it" have led far too many to blindly invest in any college at any cost.
For me, a more effective message would be to tell a prospective student that, yes, completing college is, on average, worth the time and money. But not all postsecondary options are created equal, so choose the one that reflects your talents and abilities and gives you the best chance of success. And if you choose to go, work your tail off to make sure you finish.

The message here seems clear. College is unequivocally worth it, if you are confident that you will graduate.

Do you agree that college is worth it?

More from Money Talks News

Jun 3, 2014 3:30PM
That's it! You people have stood in my way long enough. I'm going to clown college! 
Jun 3, 2014 3:05PM
These studies are not experiments, have no control group, so they don't really tell us anything. 

Smarter, harder working people are more likely to be accepted into college and graduate. Put those people directly into the workforce without college, and they would fare far better than the average uneducated person.
Jun 3, 2014 5:29PM
Depends on what your degree is in.
Jun 3, 2014 4:41PM
But you better have a degree that brings value to an employer. Engineering works, social studies doesn't.
Jun 4, 2014 7:52AM
Yes and no. Trades pay very good money and allow you to start your own business much easier than many college degrees, and there is a gigantic need right now.
Jun 4, 2014 3:05AM
"According to by Mr. Autor published Thursday in the journal Science, the true cost of a college degree is about negative $500,000. That's right: Over the long run, college is cheaper than free. Not going to college will cost you about half a million dollars."

Well what if you have invested over the LONG Haul all the money spent on College instead in the Stock Markets. How about if you also committed to working those years and learning everything about investments, managing Debt and Credit(avoiding it), then picked up a needed trade along this way. I bet you anything College would loose out.

College is highly overrated, after Decades of our Kids going to them, just what real advances have we seen to show for it? Twitter, Overpriced Phones, and dependent on Russia to ferry our folks to the Space Station. Sure, most companies will hire a College Grad before they would one without based strictly on Mythical Potential. But you have to realize just how many folks are not even working in their Field of College Study. They learned on the Job. Companies could have trained in House.

There are Gems that go to College, but they likely would have been a Gem without College. Some of the most successful Folks in World History never went to College. I doubt that College had anything to do with the most Wealthiest Folks in the World eventual success.
Jun 3, 2014 10:16PM
The only way one can calculate (with hard evidence) how much "more" a college degree has been worth is to look at people who have been out of college for a while.

That is, the statistic is already out of touch with current reality from the get-go. One cannot know what a degree "today" will be worth tomorrow--that's how a lot of people wound up with degrees they were told would be valuable, but which are not because of the new normal.

Some college degrees are useful--many are not. Some colleges (those which cater to the well-to-do) almost guarantee success--some colleges (which cater to the working poor) do not.

Blanket statements like the one made by these researchers are not merely silly--but they are self-serving. The MIT economist works at a university, for heaven's sake, in a degree field which is NOT lucrative. If he can't convince students to take an MA in economics, he will wind up teaching math to undergraduates.

So--if you think that an MIT economist will not lie in order to avoid teaching undergraduates (or being out of work), you are sadly mistaken.
Jun 4, 2014 10:58AM

My office only hire college graduates. Be them idiots or not.  They don't care as long as you have a degree.  And believe me, there are a lot of crazy idiots out there.

Besides pay disparity, another reason that college might be worth it for some... is simply how workers are treated with a degree vs. without.

While there is nothing wrong with blue collar work, (hey any work is better than no work, right?) it can be interesting to observe the amount of physical and mental stress a fast food worker, a grocery bagger or ditch digger is under compared to an office worker. -Not saying some office jobs don't suck, just saying there is down time in office jobs and actual time off a person is off their feet.

If I'm rambling again, sorry :(

Nope..not worth it........See, corporations lay off 15yr+ employees n bring in college grads n pay them lower wages for the same work,,,..........dirty game.....f*ckin bastards!

I know those 15's still want their Jobs...
Jun 4, 2014 10:23AM
Just going to college and getting a degree may not be worth the trouble and expense if it not geared toward a specialized degree such as nursing or any other health related career. I hear it's harder for graduates who have teaching degrees to find teaching jobs and in business administration. I've heard that some jobs that normally hire high school graduates will hire a college graduate over them in some cases. However, they are paid exactly the same as a high school graduate would make and that sucks. Then if they are lucky enough to land a good paying job, after paying a monthly payment due for college loan which can run as much as $30,000, their take home pay no more than a high school graduate take home pay is who doesn't have that loan to pay off, which sucks, also. So is it worth it? It all depends. There are civil service and government jobs who have high school educated managers and supervisors who make more than college educated graduates. I should know. I have a college education and I work in civil service and my past and present supervisors never entered a college classroom in their lives. I have more experience in civil service than my present supervisor does who has only a high school education, but, she got her job above me because she knew someone higher up which sucks big time! That's politics and you don't have to have a college degree in some jobs. In most cases, it's not what you know, but, who you know that gets you the higher paying jobs. Nowadays, young people need to weigh the difference between going into deep debt for college with a loan they will have to pay for ten or more years on or go to work and save up as much as they can without a huge debt to pay off or get some kind of Pell Grant based on a lower income. It's not like it use to be when I went to college back in the 70's and 80's and could afford it without going into debt. But, now I wonder if it was really worth it looking at other's who make more than I do who never went to college at all.
Jun 3, 2014 4:17PM
"College is still worth every penny..." 
HA!!!!! Good luck finding a job, kiddies.
Jun 3, 2014 7:28PM
You just keep telling your kids they don't need college.....that just means more jobs for mine!  I'm 50 and will graduate in 2 mos with a degree in computer science. I already have job offers on the table.  Your success will depend on your degree.  A history major has few prospects. 
Jun 4, 2014 11:11AM
I'd love to know, of those college grads making 98% more, how many (if any) are RECENT college grads, because my hunch is that these college grads they're talking about who are making so much money probably graduated college in the 1980's and this study probably has no relevance whatsoever to the college grads of today.
Jun 4, 2014 11:50AM
Choose wisely grasshopper!   I retired (think quit) in 2010 just 21 years after graduating from college with a degree in computer science.  I found the office working conditions intolerable and the pay too low for the amount of responsibility I had to accept.  Sure, I made more money than a ditch digger or burger flipper.  But, ten years into the job, I was earning less annually than the bug man at Sears I ran into one night at a party.   I haven't bought a new car in over 35 years.  I don't buy Apple, Inc products (way overpriced).  I wear my cloths until they are rags and then I wear them a little longer to make sure I get my money's worth.  If I was going to do it over again, I still would have chosen computer science but I would have gone to college right after high school instead of waiting until I was 32 years old.  I also would be more willing to move around rather than stay with the same company.  My excuse was that I was lured by the promise of a nice pension and afraid of age descrimination as I got older.  Over the course of twenty years and several adjustments, the pension was no longer as nice as that offered in the beginning.  Sure, I got to keep the benefits  I earned right up to each adjustment but going forward, I got a much smaller piece of the pie than originally promised.  I think the only reason I was able to responsibly quit was because I saved half of everything I ever earned, despite those different ex-girl friends (take a number please) that kept calling me cheap, and suggesting I do otherwise!  I don't know what happened to them in the long run but I do know I now live in Florida with a house and a swimming pool that I own out right, have no debt, and that's my dog in my front yard!  I haven't worked for four years now  and have never looked back!  I like what I'm doing (nothing)!  And, now I can appreciate how precious my free time actually is!  Oh, and computers are just a hobby now!  Choose wisely grasshoppers!  
Jun 4, 2014 1:16PM
If you live in a small town, college isn't worth it. Very few jobs here even look for someone with a college degree. I've had a few jobs since college and a college degree hasn't helped me in any of them. Personally, I think I would've been better off working at WalMart than going to college if I did I would be a manager by now. The only career choice I thought about that would make use of my college degree would be teaching but I would have to go back and get a master's degree in education. I wouldn't buy into the saying that education pays. I think something like 40% of college graduates end up in a career where they didn't need a college degree. Some of the richest people I personally know make two to three times what a typical M.D. makes and that person couldn't even pass English 101 and didn't finish college.
Jun 4, 2014 12:43PM
got 2 IT degree and 1 MGT degree...what good does it do if you only make $13/hr ??? Not a damn thing...
Jun 4, 2014 12:40PM
Colleges are for suckers like me...went to college and got 2 BS degree and 1 master's degree, still making $13/hr...
Jun 3, 2014 7:24PM
The college "experience" put me in a hole, but to some extent has kept breath in my lungs (maybe I need a different degree). Nonetheless, compliments of college and other "experiences", I might have a billion (or trillion dollar; depending on how it gets spun) idea or two (plus...a PhD or two). An individual never knows where the dumb luck is going to come from.
Jun 4, 2014 12:58PM
This is not an absolute truth...... If you seek the truth you will find that your chances of success are improved but in fact in your situation it could make it worse...... Bad thing is you never know.
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