The Financial Benefits of College

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Going to college is a huge investment in time and money. But study after study shows that it pays off in the long run.

Americans with a four-year college degree made nearly double as much money as those without degrees, according to 2014 data from the Economic Policy Institute. The earnings boost compounds over time: in retirement, those with degrees make three to five times what someone without a degree will make.

And although taking on a load of student debt to attend college is daunting, studies show college more than pays for itself. According to one study, a college graduate will make (after subtracting the cost of college) $500,000 more over the course of a lifetime than someone who does not go to college. That means the real cost of college is actually negative half one million dollars.

Don’t let post-graduate horror stories of living in parents’ basements or taking menial jobs scare you. Underemployment is a real concern, but overall, the picture is not as bleak: the unemployment rate of a bachelor’s degree holder between ages 25-34 was just 3%, lower than the national average.  

Those are just the monetary returns-on-investment. In addition, students who graduate college are healthier, less likely to smoke, and more likely to be active members of their community by volunteering and voting, according to a 2017 College Board study.

The main benefit of higher education is immeasurable. It’s a time to open yourself to new ideas, meet new people, and think about the impact you’d like to have on the world. It’s no wonder some refer to the years spent in university as the best years of their lives. (Don’t worry--the years after are good, too).

There are many ways to finance a college education, starting with researching individual schools’ fellowships and scholarships. If you want to learn more about the costs of going to college, read more here.

While the overall data is promising, the benefits of going to college are not guaranteed. With the economy sputtering along and technology upending various industries, it’s not enough to rest on the laurels of a bachelor’s degree. It’s a good leg up, but it’s still up to each individual to take charge of his or her own success.

By Anjie Zheng, writer at Image Impact International.