Is going to college and earning a degree really worth it? According to the U.S. Department of Labor Statistics, the answer is “yes.” Earnings increase and unemployment rates decrease with education level. Their studies show:
- Workers with a bachelor’s degree had median weekly earnings of $1,305 in 2020, compared with $781 for workers with a high school diploma. An associate’s degree brings earnings in between those numbers, around $938.
This means over the course of your lifetime, your degree could provide hundreds of thousands of dollars more in income.
- The unemployment rate for bachelor’s-level workers was 5.5 percent, compared with 9.0 percent for those whose highest level of education was a high school diploma.
Need another reason to be thankful for your degree? The College Board found that 64% of workers with bachelor’s degrees and 70% of workers with advanced degrees had employer-provided healthcare coverage, compared to 52% of high school graduates.
But what about the rising costs of college and student loan debt?
Of course, college isn’t free. But as of March 2020, 55% of borrowers owed less than $20,000 in outstanding education debt; 56% of bachelor’s degree recipients in 2018-2019 had an average of $28,800 in student loan debt. (Source: College Board) The increased earnings from your degree over a lifetime will likely offset your student loan debt.
It’s also important to pay for college responsibly to minimize any debt. Start with what we consider free money for college: scholarships and grants that do not have to be paid back. Next, look to federal student loans that come with low interest rates and a benefits such as income-based repayment plans and public service student loan forgiveness. Last, cover any remaining need with private student loans like those offered by our credit union partners.
If you’re already paying back your student loans, you could consider refinancing to save on payments and interest over time.