College Guide


August 17, 2012 10:00 AM Worth it, For Now

By Daniel Luzer

Guess what? College is still worth the price.

That’s according to a study released earlier in the week by the Georgetown University Center for Education and the Workforce indicating that people with college degrees fared better than those without them in the latest recession.

Nearly 200,000 jobs for workers with at least a Bachelor’s degree were added during the recession, and 2 million more jobs for college-educated workers have been added during the recovery. More than half of the jobs created in the recovery have gone to workers with a Bachelor’s degree or better, even though these highly educated workers make up just a little more than a third of the labor force.
Workers with an Associate’s degree or some college lost 1.8 million jobs because of the recession and have regained 1.6 million jobs in the recovery. At the same time, workers with a high school education or less lost more than 5.6 million jobs during the recession—and have continued to lose jobs during the slow recovery. Correspondingly, nearly four out of every five jobs destroyed by the recession were held by workers with a high school diploma or less.

That’s interesting, if not particularly surprising.

What is surprising about this latest report is all of the discussion about college being “worth it.” As Antony Carnevale, one of the authors of the study, explained when interviewed at NPR’s All Things Considered: “the only thing that’s more expensive than going to college is not going to college. You really don’t have a choice.”

This study “should put to rest all the angst about the value of a college education, Carnevale explained.

The thing with this is that “worth the price” is sort of vague. Worth what price?

The fact that college graduates make more money than people who didn’t go to college is all well and good, but this sort of talk ignores the trend line: college costs are rising while median incomes simply aren’t. At what point will college cease to be worth the price?

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer


  • Sgt. Gym Bunny on August 17, 2012 1:21 PM:

    At what point will college cease to be worth the price?

    Good question. While people with at least a bachelor's are fairing well enough since at least they have a job, I'd be interested to know how folks with more than a bachelor's are doing, relatively speaking. Specifically, are folks with master's or other professional degrees working in jobs that only require a bachelor's. I think that point would be the point when college ceases to be worth the price.

    Just an anecdote, when one of the individual academic offices opened a position for an essentially entry-level job, half of the applicants already had master's degrees. And that's probably a pretty common thing in today's weak job market.

    And to split hairs, do any of these jobs truly "require" a bachelor's degree, or do the employers just prefer a college degree? My job, for example, was initially advertised that they would except someone with just a high school diploma/GED but they "preferred" a college graduate. Not that I do any particular tasks that someone without a four-year degree couldn't figure out how to do...