Just how much is a degree worth?

By KATIE STEWART

Census data analysis shows the growing value of a college education despite rising tuition costs, according to a new report by the Pew Research Center.

The earnings gap between young college graduates and those with a high school diploma is at its highest level in 50 years, according to the report.

College graduates ages 25 to 32 who work full time earn about $17,500 more per year than employed young adults with a high school diploma, according to the analysis. The pay gap was much smaller in previous generations.

The college graduates are also more likely to be employed full time (89 percent versus 82 percent) and are much less likely to be unemployed (3.8 percent versus 12.2 percent).

A worthwhile investment

College graduates are also more satisfied with their jobs.

“Employed college graduates are more likely than their peers with a high school diploma to say their job is a career or a stepping stone to a career (86 percent vs. 57 percent),” the study found.

“Those with a high school diploma are about three times as likely as college graduates to say their work is ‘just a job to get by’ (42 percent vs. 14 percent).”

C.J. Karamargin, Pima Community College’s vice chancellor for public information, said the study shows that higher education can be valuable.

“A college education is a worthwhile investment – it’s an investment in yourself, it’s an investment in your future, it’s an investment that will pay you significant long-term dividends,” he said.

“Life doesn’t have many sure bets but this sure comes close,” Karamargin added. “You are more likely to get a well-paying and satisfying job if you have a college degree.”

Paving way to career

Recent PCC graduate David Patrusevich said he could not have expanded his career opportunities in biology without a college education.

Patrusevich said his degree paved the way to a career in his chosen field.

Matthew Gautrex, a PCC student and Air Force airman, said it’s essential to have more than a high school education.

“Education is the key, it opens more doors, more choices,” Gautrex said. “Lack thereof leaves you empty handed.”

Best-educated generation

In today’s work force, a bachelor’s degree is almost required for a stable career.

This is a significant increase in the amount of education needed compared to previous generations.

“Today’s millennials are the best-educated generation in history; fully a third (34 percent) have at least a bachelor’s degree,” the Pew study said.

In contrast, only 13 percent of people ages 25-32 in 1965 had a college education, according to the study.

At the same time the share of college graduates has grown and the value of their degree has increased, the study said.

Finding a sustainable career depends both on the education students have and on the field of study.

The Pew study says an engineering or science degree is most beneficial.

“According to the survey, only a quarter of science and engineering majors regretted their decision (24 percent),” Pew Research said.

“This compared with 33 percent of those whose degree is in social science, liberal arts or education.”

The need for more science and engineering majors is also high, which creates more career opportunities.

PCC nursing student Calli Stoeckman said being a science major led to more prospects.

“I believe having a science degree opens more doors,” Stoeckman said. “For example, I’m going into nursing. There are several kinds of nurses and I can specialize.”

Like science majors, engineering students have more opportunities available to them in their work field.

An article by Rebecca VanderMeulen titled “What Can You Do with an Engineering Major?” discussed the opportunities a degree provides.

“They expect a large number of opportunities for aerospace engineers and engineers focused on transportation and health care,” VanderMeulen said. “Environmentalism is sure to drive the demand as well.”

Former Pima student Mike O’Malley said the amount of work students put into their education is as important as how much education they have.

“My education isn’t about just dates and facts, it’s about hard deadlines with real consequences,” O’Malley said. “It’s also about managing my time and being self-motivated, no matter what’s going on.”

Seek ways to reduce costs

Karamargin cited a need to reduce the high cost of education.

“In our brutally competitive 21st century global economy, when the need for a well-educated workforce is greater than it ever has been, we need to figure out a way to confront the economic barriers to higher education,” Karamargin said.

“The best education system in the world is useless if students don’t have access to it.”

Read the full Pew report at: pewsocialtrends.org/2014/02/11/the-rising-cost-of-not-going-to-college.

Filed Under: InsightOpinion

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