Yes, college is worth it

Published 11:40 am Tuesday, January 15, 2013

By DR. RICK BARTH / Guest Columnist

A recent Newsweek magazine article, “Is College a Lousy Investment?” argued that college isn’t a good investment for many students because these are difficult times for families attempting to pay for college, recent graduates are facing a tough job market and too many students are taking on more student debt than they should.

However, there is little evidence to support the article’s claim that college is no longer worth the investment for many young people.

The results of a recent study done by the Georgetown Public Policy Institute’s Center on Education and the Workforce clearly show that college is still a good investment.

The study found that the unemployment rate for college graduates remained at approximately half the rate of the overall unemployment rate, even during the worst part of the recent recession.

While the unemployment rate for recent college graduates was high at 6.8 percent in May 2012, it was significantly lower than the 24 percent unemployment rate for recent high-school graduates measured at the same time.

The findings for underemployment are similar. One in seven new college graduates was underemployed in May 2012, compared to nearly 50 percent of recent high-school graduates in May 2012.

The most telling finding of the study had to do with job creation during and after the recent recession.

Approximately 200,000 jobs were added during the recession that required at least a bachelor’s degree. Additionally, 2 million more jobs were added during the slow recovery for college-educated workers.

Put another way, more than half the jobs that have been created during the recovery have required at least a bachelor’s degree.

College Board’s research on the public and private benefits of higher education is published every three years in a report titled “Education Pays.” The results of the 2012 study confirm the findings of the Georgetown study.

Put succinctly, the research by College Board indicates that individuals with bachelor’s degrees suffer less unemployment and underemployment, earn enough by the age of 33 to compensate for being out of the workforce for four years, as well as covering the cost of a four-year degree, and live healthier lives than those without a college degree.

Add the findings of the research to the fact that a bachelor’s degree is worth $2.8 million in higher earnings over the degree holder’s lifetime, and it becomes clear that — yes — college is still worth the investment.

Dr. Rick Barth is the vice president for enrollment management at the University of Montevallo.