Is a College Education Worth the Price?

03 October, 2014

Is a college education worth the price? This is a question more Americans are asking as college costs continue rising and the job market remains weak.

Attending a four-year college in the United States can cost more than $40,000 a year. That information comes from the College Board, a private company. Many people with a college education are drowning in student debt. They had to borrow money to finance their education.

A recent study suggests that a college education is worth it, at least in the United States. That information comes from the Hamilton Project at the Brookings Institution.

Is a College Education Worth the Price?
Graduates throw their caps in the air in triumph at the University of Delaware's commencement ceremony in Newark, Del., Saturday, May 31, 2014. (AP Photo/Emily Varisco)

The study found that someone with a 4-year college education earns two times as much as a high school graduate over a lifetime. And for nearly all study programs, an individual with a four-year bachelor's degree earns even more than someone with a two-year degree.

But not all college majors have a guarantee of good wages. For example, a chemical engineer can expect to earn double the earnings of a social worker over a lifetime. On average, a finance graduate makes more than a nurse or medical aide, while the nurse makes more than an elementary school teacher.

Generally, college majors that require skill in mathematics have high lifetime earnings. Graduates in computer science, engineering, and physics have the highest wages. Majors that involve teaching children or counseling have the lowest pay.

Actually, graduates with bachelor's degrees in some fields earn even less than people with a 2-year associate's degrees over a lifetime. They include early childhood education, elementary education, and social work.

The study did not explore the earnings of people with master's degrees or doctorates.

Brad Hershbein helped to direct the study. He said the research includes immigrants who graduated from American and foreign universities. He added that, "we don't try to distinguish how things would be different based on where the education was completed."

The Hamilton Project noted that future earnings should not be the only reason for choosing a college major. It says, "Personal enjoyment, engaging in meaningful work, and filling a social need should also enter into a student's decision-making." The numbers are only averages and there are many exceptions.

Most students have little knowledge of what their future earning will be when they choose a major. Study organizers hope the report will help students make better decisions about higher education. In their words, "college degrees may not be a guarantee of higher income, but they come closer than just about any other investment one can make."

Adam Brock reported and wrote this story for Learning English. Hai Do edited the story.


Words in this Story

wagen. an amount of money that a worker is paid based on the number of hours, days, etc., that are worked

counseling n. advice and support that is given to people to help them deal with problems, make important decisions, etc.

distinguish v. to notice or recognize a difference between people or things

master's degree n. a degree that is given to a student by a college or university usually after one or two years of additional study following a bachelor's degree

doctoraten. the highest degree that is given by a university