What’s a College Degree Actually Worth? 20 Good Answers.

Is a bachelor’s degree today the financial equivalent of a high school diploma ten years ago? Do you need a master’s degree, or is an associate’s degree viable in today’s job market? Most of all, can you afford to go to college, and will you receive a financial return on your college expenses? The following sources may help answer the question about what a college degree actually is worth in financial terms.

For the most part, the articles we discovered on what a college degree is really worth were pessimistic about retaining valuations from a decade prior, with the rise in college costs and the current lack of jobs. However, a college degree still has value, just not as much as it did before this economic recession.

The question you need to ask yourself is whether you consider a college education worthwhile for your future, both in financial terms and in terms of experiences. This was the focus of many articles and statistics shown below. This list is divided into categories to show national perspectives down to local views and considerations on degree types and even gender issues. The links lead to articles that contain both statistics and opinions, and all links lead to information published between 2009 and 2010.

National Perspectives

  1. Census Bureau Press Release: This information is about as close as you’ll get to current statistics from the Census Bureau. In this release, the Bureau states that workers with bachelor’s degrees in 2008 earned about $26,000 more on average than workers with a high school diploma.
  2. How Much Is That College Degree Really Worth? U.S. News & World Report, known for their college rankings, offers a take on the cost vs. return method of current college degrees. Advanced degrees, it seems, reward bigger payoffs, and — an interesting note — college grads seem more likely to get jobs with health insurance.
  3. Infographic of the Day: Is College Really Worth It? Fast Company provides an interesting graphic that debates the cost of a higher education. The question is whether paying for a private college is worth the investment…
  4. Is college still worth the price? CNN Money tackle the value of a college degree, coming to the conclusion that college is more than a financial decision…it’s a decision that can change a person’s life in terms of values that cannot be quantified.
  5. Is college worth the cost? FastWeb, a site that offers information about college scholarships and loans, provides an argument for education, stating that college is not a commodity — like a house — but that it is an asset that enables the production of income.
  6. Is your degree worth $1 million — or worthless? Liz Weston with MSN Money sat down with a financial calculator to play with some numbers to discover that the worst payback degree-wise is the master’s degree. Associate, bachelor’s and professional degrees (for law and medical school) are worth the investments. Read on to learn more about her calculations.
  7. Placing a Value on a College Degree: The Wall Street Journal recently ran an article about the value of a college education. In the end, happiness and the ability to be in an “amazing environment” for four years seems to win out over the cost…provided the college is affordable.
  8. The Job Market: Is a College Degree Worth Less? Time Magazine’s Kristi Oloffson states that most degrees have been devalued with the rise in educational costs, but that employers stress degree-bearing job applicants are worth more than those that do not carry degrees. Still, work experience is valued almost as much.
  9. Weighing the Value of That College Diploma: Another perspective from the Wall Street Journal that emphasizes the value of earning a degree in science- or math-related fields compared to other majors.

Specific Focuses

  1. College Education Costs: Is College Worth What You Pay For It? The Digerati Life offers a far different perspective than any other article we discovered…focusing on gender issues, this article shows that more women earn bachelor’s degrees than men, yet they are paid far less than those men who earn the same degrees.
  2. Does a College Degree Protect your Career? Unemployment Rate for College Graduates Highest on Record: This article contains relevant graphics for a different perspective on college education…current career protection and unemployment rates.
  3. How Much Is That Bachelor’s Degree Really Worth? The American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research offers their argument on the million dollar question about what a four-year degree is worth, along with charts and graphs.
  4. Is a College Degree Worth It? Specifically, is an agricultural degree still relevant? This article, published in “Corn & Soybean,” provides economic clues for those who want to seek a degree in agricultural sciences. Read on to learn some interesting solutions, even if you want to obtain a degree in another subject.
  5. Is grad school a waste of time (and money)? This article at Wikinomics questions the value of a master’s degree, specifically the MBA. While the article looks at the negative side of spending money on higher degree levels, the questions at the end of this piece might make you think twice about forgoing that higher level of education.
  6. The Case for a U.S. Gap Year Campaign…: This article makes a case for traveling before college, comparing the U.S. standards of high-school-to-college routes to European standards, where travel before college is highly encouraged. Their perspective is based upon the value of the college degree today.
  7. What Is a Master’s Degree Worth? The New York Times asks four educational authorities whether the pursuit of a master’s degree is worth the effort and the money. Find out which degrees are worth the money and whether the risks of higher education are worth the financial outlay.

Local News Perspectives

  1. As jobs languish, college grads settle for less: This article out of Kansas City talks about how college-educated graduates are being downsized. Statistics follow, with the thought that, “A college education is no guarantee” to higher income.
  2. College cash crunch — Financial aid applications up 40 Percent: This article published in Michigan’s Holland Sentinel talks about the concerns local high school students have over paying for college during this economic crunch…is the degree worth the stress?
  3. Is a college degree worth what it costs? An Oregon newspaper states that Oregon students are getting less education, and that this trend might cost the state in the long run.
  4. Would you go deeply into debt for a college education? Minnesota ranks among the states with the highest student debt. Comments added to this short article provide food for thought.