October 23, 2013
The financial benefits of postsecondary education are trumpeted in a recent report from the College Board. In 2011, a person with a bachelor's degree, working full-time, had median earnings of $56,500, about $21,000 more than a high school graduate. This gap is slightly narrower than in 2008, but still substantial. In general, a four-year college graduate who finished school at 22 should have recouped that investment by age 36.
In addition, the researchers find that workers with some college but no degree, including certificates, earned 14 percent more than high school graduates working full-time.
The report also describes the social and health benefits that accrue from postsecondary education, as well as persistent gaps in enrollment and attainment among different demographic groups. A companion piece, How College Shapes Lives, delves into the nuances of the education payoff across occupations, demographics, ages, institutions attended, part-time versus full-time status and other factors.