From Above the Noise.
College is often presented as THE best path to success. But it’s not the only path. Is college really the best option?
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**How important is a college degree today, really?**
College is often presented as THE BEST option, full stop. Why? Because it’s not your grandparents’ economy anymore. Back in 1950, a high school diploma could get you a solid, good-paying job. You could go work on an assembly line, save money, and even buy a house. Today? Not so much. Most of the factory jobs have gone to other countries, where labor is cheaper. And good-paying careers out there now are more complex. As a result, college is now more popular today than ever before.
**How much does college cost?**
The average cost to attend a private college is over $35,000 A YEAR! That makes in-state, public colleges look like a bargain at $10,000 a year. College wasn’t always this expensive! If you adjust for inflation, students in 1990 were paying ⅓ of what they’re paying today. Maybe today’s grads are AT LEAST making more money? NOPE! New college grads in 1990 made around the same amount of money — on average — as new college grads today. To pay the absurdly high cost of college, students are taking out loans, and that means debt. The typical student leaves college owing around 30,000 dollars.
**What are the pros of going to college?**
The arguments FOR college are that it pays out more money over time — on average — than most other options. It can help you transition into living life as an adult. And it gives you access to an alumni network which can help you with job opportunities.
**What are the cons of college?**
It can be risky because you could go into debt and might not even graduate. A lot of people WITH college degrees have jobs that don’t require it. And there are other quicker, cheaper options that might get you where you want to go.
Why Is College in America So Expensive? (The Atlantic)
Millennial life: How young adulthood today compares with prior generations (Pew Research Center)
College Completion Rates Are Up, But The Numbers Will Still Surprise You (NPR)
Why Google doesn’t care about hiring top college graduates (Quartz)
The case against college (The Washington Post)
General Education, Vocational Education, and Labor-Market Outcomes over the Lifecycle (The Journal of Human Resources)
Nine out of 10 new jobs are going to those with a college degree (MarketWatch)
Educational Attainment in the U.S. (U.S. Census Bureau)
Some 43% of College Grads Are Underemployed in First Job (The Wall Street Journal)
The Labor Market for Recent College Graduates (Federal Reserve Bank of New York)
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KQED, an NPR and PBS affiliate in San Francisco, CA, serves Northern California and beyond with a public-supported alternative to commercial TV, Radio, and web media. Funding for Above the Noise is provided in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Silver Giving Foundation, Stuart Foundation, and William and Flora Hewlett Foundation.