Let me begin by saying that I consider education to be its own reward. However, there are practical considerations. One must consider whether the time and financial investment are worth it.
One of the most prominent narratives of today’s economy has been that of the barista with a bachelor’s degree. Government data, news reports and other studies all have shown that college graduates are underemployed and working at jobs that are well below their qualifications.
However, the data still confirm that for millennials ages 25 to 32, median annual earnings for full-time working college-degree holders are $17,500 greater than for those with high school diplomas only. However, if one goes to a trade school (typically two years instead of four years or more) the differences are significantly less.
Salaries for trade school graduates aren’t nearly as much of a drop-off compared to a four-year degree. According to the National Center for Educational Statistics, technical and trade school jobs have a median annual salary of $35,720. The predicted earnings for bachelor’s degree holders to be roughly $46,900, thus decreasing the annual difference to $11,180.
However, because trade school only takes an average of two years to complete versus four, that amounts to an additional two years of income for the trade school graduate, or $71,440. Factor in another $70,000 in costs for the many students who take an extra year to graduate from college, and trade school graduates begin with a $140,000 surplus that makes up for over 12 years of difference in income.
[Sources: Why should you consider trade school instead of college, by Trent Hamm; Is College Education Worth It? By Walter E. Williams]
Here are some statistics to ponder before you send junior off to college:
- More than 18 million students attend more than 4,300 degree-granting institutions.
- When considering all first-time undergraduates, studies have found anywhere from 28 percent to 40 percent of students enroll in at least one remedial course.
- When looking at only community college students, several studies have found remediation rates surpassing 50 percent.
- Only 25 percent of students who took the ACT in 2012 met the test’s readiness benchmarks in all four subjects (English, reading, math and science).
- Just 5 percent of black students and 13 percent of Hispanic students met the readiness benchmarks in all four subjects.
- A U.S. Department of Education study found that 58 percent of students who do not require remediation earn a bachelor’s degree (no great shakes as the saying goes)
- However, only 17 percent of students enrolled in remedial reading and 27 percent of students enrolled in remedial math earn a bachelor’s degree.
- A study by Professor Richard Arum shows that more than a third of students showed no improvement in critical thinking skills after four years at a university.
- Employers complain that many recent graduates cannot write an email that will not embarrass the company.
- During a recent University of North Carolina scandal, a learning specialist hired to help athletes found that during the period from 2004 to 2012, 60 percent of the 183 members of the football and basketball teams read between fourth- and eighth-grade levels. and 10 percent read below a third-grade level.
- 1 in 3 college graduates have a job historically performed by those with a high-school diploma or the equivalent.
- According to Richard Vedder, who is a professor of economics at Ohio University and the director of the Center for College Affordability and Productivity, we had 115,000 janitors, 16,000 parking lot attendants, 83,000 bartenders and about 35,000 taxi drivers with bachelor’s degrees in 2012.
As someone who has devoted his professional life to education it all sounds rather depressing.