As the "[d]ebate over the return on investment of higher education has intensified as tuition has risen faster than family income, The Chronicle of Education reports on the recent Education Pays 2013: The Benefits of Higher Education for Individuals and Society report.
"The expansive triennial report examines the value of college in both financial and nonfinancial terms. The goal is to 'call attention to ways in which both individuals and society as a whole benefit from increased levels of education,' the authors write."
The report shows that "[t]he earnings gap between young college graduates and their peers with only high-school diplomas has narrowed slightly in recent years, but adults with bachelor's degrees still make significantly more over their careers. In 2008, males ages 25 to 34 with bachelor's degrees made 74 percent more in median earnings than did high-school graduates in the same age range; the figure was 79 percent for women. In 2011, however, the difference was only 69 percent for men and 70 percent for women, the report says. In 1991, male and female bachelor's-degree holders ages 25 to 34 made 56 percent more than their counterparts with only high-school diplomas."
Ages 25-34 is still considered early adulthood, and generally, a college graduate will be able to make the time and money for attending college back by age 36. "Using the median earnings of a high-school graduate for comparison, the student who enrolls in college at 18 and completes a bachelor's degree in four years can expect to make up for being out of the work force as an undergraduate and for borrowing the full average cost of tuition and fees by age 36. Using the lower average tuition and fees at public colleges, the break-even age drops to 33."
So it appears that not only do college graduates make more at the outset, they will have a complete return on investment by age 33 or 36. And this trend will continue for the rest of their careers.
"Beyond early adulthood, the report shows that, in most cases, it does pay to attend college. Over the course of a 40-year career of full-time work, the median earnings of those whose highest academic credential is a bachelor's degree are 65 percent higher than those of high-school graduates." Sixty-five percent is a large discrepancy and shows that it does still pay to attend college even as the cost of college continues to increase.
I'd love to see an updated study on law school return on investment....