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CNHI/Southeast Iowa

September 3, 2013

What is a college degree worth in today's job market?

With jobs harder to find, the debate is heating up

The cost of a four-year college education continues to rise. Over the last four years it seems the number of jobs – particularly fulltime – has been going down. This has led many, including former Education Secretary William Bennett, to question whether college is worth the cost.

In his book, "Is College Worth It?" Bennett raises a question that a lot of recent graduates may be asking themselves. After getting a bachelors degree and running up thousands of dollars in student loans, they may end up working as retail clerks, right alongside their peers who didn't go to college.

Bennett concluded that a degree from some colleges might be worth the cost while degrees from others most definitely are not. And he isn't the only one to weigh in on the topic.

Debate

When U.S. News threw out the question "is college worth it?" on its Debate Club website, it drew diverse responses and a two-to-one margin of replies endorsing a college degree. Craig Brandon, author of "The Five-Year Party: How Colleges Have Given Up On Educating Your Child and What You Can Do About It," was among those voting no.

“Four to six years of partying do not equal an education,” he wrote.

But Chris Farrell, Economics Editor of Marketplace Money, was among those voting yes.

“The return on investment in postsecondary education remains compelling,” he wrote.

Salary study

At this point, many career counselors tend to agree with Farrell. A study by job-matching service TheLadders found that people with a four-year degree earn, on average, $215,000 more than people without college, over a 20-year period.

The study, based on data from its more than six million users, found a graduate degree is even more valuable. Someone with a masters degree or higher earned an average of $440,000 more than non-graduates over the same two-decade span.

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