As Returns to Education Rises, College Becomes Less Affordable

Education Pays 2010 Report Shows College Graduates Weather Recession Better Than Others

College Completion Linked to Health and Civic Participation in Addition to Earnings and Employment Security


Washington — People with college degrees earn more and are far less likely than others to experience unemployment. The gaps have widened in recent years, according to Education Pays 2010, the latest report from the College Board Advocacy & Policy Center.
College Board officials emphasized that the widening gap between college graduates and those without a college degree makes efforts to increase educational attainment even more important.
“If it wasn’t clear before, it should be abundantly clear now that a college graduate is far more competitive in today’s workplace,” said College Board President Gaston Caperton. “What’s most disturbing is that noncollege graduates are losing ground on salary and employment, a trend that validates the soundness of an investment in a college education.”
While unemployment has risen for both groups during the economic downturn, from 2005 to 2009 the difference between the unemployment rates for those with a bachelor’s degree and those with a high school diploma increased from 2.3 to 5.1 percentage points. In 2008, four-year college graduates earned nearly $22,000 more than those with just a high school diploma ($55,700 vs. $33,800). The earnings of college graduates increased more rapidly from 2005 to 2008 than the earnings of high school graduates.
“Even for students who use loans to finance all of their tuition, it would take only about 11 years to recoup the cost plus the foregone earnings. Over the long-run, they would be much better off financially than their counterparts without a degree,” Caperton added.
The Education Pays 2010 report also establishes a correlation between education and health outcomes, community involvement, and other life patterns.
“Education pays out more than dollars,” said Sandy Baum, an independent policy analyst for the College Board and co-author of all three Education Pays reports. “If you have a college degree, you are more likely to exercise, volunteer, vote and read to your kids, and less likely to be obese or smoke. According to the data, people’s level of education profoundly affects both the financial and non-financial aspects of their lives.”
Education Pays 2010: The Benefits of Higher Education for Individuals and Society is the third Education Pays report from the College Board. The first report was issued in 2004, followed by a 2007 release. Education Pays 2010 is one in a series of college affordability and financial aid reports issued by the CBAPC to spotlight the current state of education in the U.S. and to demonstrate the importance and benefits of college readiness, access and completion. Upcoming activities will identify higher education challenges for students and families; provide assistance with understanding financial aid, and launch a new initiative to encourage college completion.
Our Opinion

At the same time as the employment and salary gap has widened between those with a college diploma, and those with a high school diploma, college is becoming less affordable. The College Board publishes trends in college pricing by state. For New York state, the cost of attending a 2-year public college has risen 6.4%, the cost of attending a 4-year public college has risen 12.5%, and the cost of attending a 4-year private college has risen 4.6% since last year. Visit to view this information. The increasing lack of affordability of college affects low-income students, including most pregnant and parenting students, the most, because they may no longer be able to afford to continue their education. As jobs are scarce, these students will slip further into poverty. How do you think we can make college more affordable and accessible to low-income students?


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Filed under College, Poverty, Research, United States

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