Polling on the Value of College
by Daniel Luzer
About 60 percent of adults surveyed by Widmeyer Communications in a recent study indicated that they believed college was a good investment. Only 12 percent said it wasn’t. According to the poll, however, Americans don’t necessarily believe college is as valuable as it used to be:
Americans are closely divided on the value of a college degree: 46 percent say it carries as much value as it did 20 years ago while 41 percent say it does not. Fourteen percent say they don’t know.
Americans might be on to something. While it’s certainly not a financially responsible decision to skip college altogether (the average American with a bachelor’s degree earns 75 percent more than someone with a mere high school diploma), college actually is less valuable than it used to be, from a pure dollar perspective.
The median annual earnings of someone with a bachelor’s degree between 25 and 34 was $49,300 (in 2009 dollars) almost 20 years ago. In 2009 it was $40,100.
Meanwhile, the cost of that bachelor’s degree is much higher. Adjusted for inflation, total tuition, fees, room, and board was an average $12,303 in 1990. Twenty years later, in 2010 (the most recent year with information available) it was $21,657 a year.
No matter how necessary something is, if you pay more for it, and you get less out of it, it’s just not worth as much.