Each year, some 2.8 million students in the United States earn two- and four-year degrees from American colleges and universities, stimulating economic, social, and cultural growth for themselves and for society. Powerful evidence demonstrates that a degree helps launch graduates on the path to professional success and satisfaction.
This week, AGB is highlighting the financial benefits of being a college graduate. Here are a few facts that trustees, as advocates for higher education, should know:
College graduates earn more over their lifetimes. Recent college graduates (ages 22-27) earn median annual incomes of $17,500 above those who hold a high school degree. And over the course of their working lives, the gap widens: on average, students who complete bachelor’s degrees have incomes of $25,000 more per year, and those with associate degrees earn $10,000 more annually.
College graduates experience greater job security. Those with a college degree consistently experience lower levels of unemployment. At the peak of the Great Recession, for example, those with bachelor’s degrees experienced an unemployment rate of 4.7 percent, while the jobless rate for those without a college degree was twice as high.
College graduates report feeling more professional satisfaction in their work. According to US General Social Survey data from the National Opinion Research Center, college graduates are more likely to describe their work environments positively than those without a bachelor’s degree, and to work in professions providing more autonomy, recognition, and support than their peers without a degree.
College graduates prioritize continuous learning. Three out of four employed adults with a college degree will engage in some sort of job-related training or professional learning throughout their lifetime, while only half of employed adults with high school degrees or less will do so.
There is powerful evidence that earning a college or university degree provides a substantial return on investment to graduates throughout their careers. It’s important that higher education leaders continue to communicate the enduring value of a degree in the professional lives of college graduates.