Is College Still Worth the Investment? A statistical and analytical breakdown of the costs and benefits of a present day college education


past successes with the system lead people to support a four year degree

In the past, people have generally been very monetarily successful when earning a four year degree at a university. However, as inflation increased over the years, the cost of college tuition increased at a higher rate. Even since the 2007-2008 academic year, college tuition at public universities rose 28% faster than inflation did (Price).

Then vs Now

Comparing tuition costs from 1972 to present day

Since 1971-1972 academic year, the price of tuition has more than doubled for both private and public universities (Koncz).

Comparing the reported and adjusted average starting salaries for four year college graduates from 1972 to present gives a better idea of the proportional increase in college tuition to the cost of living.

Adjusting for inflation, there was actually a better return on a college investment in 1972 than there was in 2015 (Koncz).

Can Skilled Laborers be monetarily successful?

Running the Numbers

Radiologist Education and career path

If you spent $15,000 a year to become a radiologist in 2 years, that is a $30,000 investment. On average, the salary of a radiologist is about $57,500 a year, so in the first two years that you're a practicing radiologist you'll have made $115,000 (without taxes ect) (Radiology Technician). In this time, you'll have made the $30,000 you invested in the first 6 and a half months of work and from there you've profited an additional $80,000. Meanwhile if you were to be going for your BBA, in those two years you would be $50,000 more in debt.

Business bachelor's degree and career path

If you spent $25,000 a year over 4 years for a business degree that is a $100,000 investment. Because there are more job options in the business world compared to a radiologist's job options, starting salaries range from $43,000 - $73,000 a year (PayScale). So, at worst, it'd take almost two and a half years to make the money you've invested. And at best, you could have it made that amount in a year and 5 months. However, while it is unlikely, the graduate may get promoted or start at an even higher level if they are exceptionally talented in the field.

~Something to Consider~

While it is almost impossible to predict the career of an individual because there are so many factors, a general statement can be made that those who've earned a four year degree and a liberal education have more career mobility, so while initially they're more in debt and could be making less, they also have the opportunity to increase their salary if they're good at their job.

What can a liberal Education do for you?


Almost all universities that pride themselves on a liberal education want their student body to be diverse (Association of American Colleges and Universities). Why? University staff and admissions officers know that people are a function of both the environment they are in and the biological genes with which they were born. Because stereotypes and prejudices have been around so long, they are now subconscious and cannot be quickly removed (Krause Corts). People of different races, different sexuality, or different gender have all been discriminated against in history and lately efforts are being made to try and correct those actions. They can certainly be decreased discrimination, the acting on those prejudices and stereotypes, by combining students of different cultures and regions in an environment where they must work together. However, because there are so many community colleges and at trade schools in the United States, it can be assumed that students are usually local high school graduates or adults. Because of this heavy concentration of locals, there is no interspersion of different cultures and races and they do not experience a diverse student body.

communication skills

Communication is key in almost every profession. If people aren’t used to interacting with people of different cultures - or just properly interacting with others in general - odds are they will not be prepared to act appropriately when the situation presents itself (Krause Corts). This can appear unprofessional and may actually end up losing business if the customer is uncomfortable with the supplier. It’s certain little business aids like knowing the current social norms and how to persuade someone that are not always thoroughly taught outside of a liberal education. These communication skills can help someone to not only be more professional but also to be more approachable, regardless of the field in which they are working.

Communication is not only important in customer-supplier environments but also within the workforce. A manager is much more likely to be respected if they are clear about the expectations of their employees and communicate frequently with them (Krause Corts). Appearing unapproachable or cut off from ones employees is unprofessional and makes it look like even the manager is unsure of exactly how to behave. This can cause employees to take advantage of the environment and could be bad for productivity of the business.

applying knowledge

Applying knowledge to real world problems is very important to any job and is why so many college graduates get job offers that are not technically in their major (American). Four year universities breed problem solvers that are vital to the efficiency of companies. Authority figures in companies look for innovative and unique minds that are capable of approaching and dealing with a problems even if a problem is unprecedented. For example, engineers are getting accounting jobs and English majors are capable of obtaining jobs not only in journalism, or teaching, but also in libraries or as designers. While attending a trade school or community college is good to get an associate's degree, it does not offer much versatility. Generally, the curriculum does not require students to be "well-rounded" but rather just teaches them how to do one job really well. Although this method is efficient, it leaves little room for applying knowledge because they're basically taught how to deal with every possible problem in that job area. This does make them experts in that specific area but unfortunately does not do a great job educating them to apply their knowledge.

Factors in determining the best investment

Monetary return on investment

Long term and depending on profession, a four year degree offers more position and career mobility which can lead to promotions and also allows the worker to change jobs if they are unhappy with their current profession. A college graduate usually eventually has a higher salary than a trained laborer can earn despite the higher debt and the longer schooling.

Winner: College Degree

Educational return on investment

A college degree offers not only mastery of the student's major but also provides them with necessary social knowledge. Because cooperation and communication are so important to any job, these skills are not overlooked when applying for positions.

Winner: College Degree

What success means to you personally

This may be the most important of the factors in determining whether or not college is personally worth the investment.

Questions to consider:

  1. What is my source of happiness in life?
  2. What are my long term goals in life and which career path best caters to those goals?
  3. What will give me a sense of fulfillment in life? Is it career related or could I feel fulfilled by traveling and volunteering?
  4. If I'm passionate about something that does not tend to make a lot of money will I still feel successful and lead a happy life?

Winner: Varies


Created with images by R.S.Foto - "Notre Dame Trip." • bcox99 - "binder lined paper binder book" • blickpixel - "pencils colored pencils colour pencils" • Arturo Espinosa - "La troupe RPD" • Sam Bald - "Silver Tunnel"

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