A college degree is critical to economic opportunity

August 9, 2011, Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce

As millions of students prepare to return to college, a new study by the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce confirms that the value of college degrees is increasing. Experts from Georgetown and Lumina Foundation say that postsecondary education has become the new gateway to the middle class and one of the most important economic issues of our time.

According to the study, individuals with a bachelor’s degree now make 84 percent more over a lifetime than those with only a diploma, up from 75 percent in 1999. Today, bachelor’s degree holders can expect median lifetime earnings approaching $2.3 million. By comparison, workers with just a high school diploma average roughly $1.3 million, which translates into a little more than $15 per hour.

“On average, people with more and higher attainment make more than people with less education,” said Anthony P. Carnevale, the Center’s director and co-author of the report. “But, major and occupation matter just as much as degree level. For example, 28 percent of people with an Associate’s degree make at least as much as the average Bachelor’s degree holder—mostly due to occupational choice.”

The release of the report comes as some experts are asking if the rising cost of college has created a higher education bubble. But, in addition to creating opportunities for significantly greater individual earning power, increased college attainment is also quickly becoming one of the key drivers for our nation’s economy.

“The vast majority of new jobs require higher skills and if you don’t have a college degree, your chances of being in the middle class are visibly diminished,” said Jamie P. Merisotis, president and chief executive officer of Lumina. “There is a high probability that you’ll be poor without some form of postsecondary education and that makes education one of the most critical factors in our nation’s long-term economic growth plans. A dramatic increase in educational attainment must become a top national priority if we intend to build our labor pool and beat out other countries for the jobs of the future.”

In a separate study, the Center at Georgetown estimated that by 2018, 63 percent of U.S. jobs will require some form of postsecondary education or training. Unfortunately, we are woefully unprepared for this reality as a nation. Today, approximately 41 percent of adults have a college degree in America.

“Many other countries are faring much better,” said Merisotis. “South Korea, for example, currently has a postsecondary degree attainment rate of 58 percent, a full 18 percentage points higher than the United States. We now stand at 10th in the world which is a far cry from our globe-leading levels just a decade ago.”

That’s why Lumina is calling on leaders in business, education, government and civic engagement to embrace a new national initiative called Goal 2025 which aims to increase the percentage of Americans with high-quality degrees and credentials to 60 percent by the year 2025. The effort is focused on expanding access and success in education beyond high school, particularly among adults, first-generation college going students, low-income students and students of color.

“The idea of getting a high school diploma and working your way up from the mail room to the corner office is a relic of an earlier time,” said Carnevale. “A provides greater career mobility opportunities, greater lifetime earning power and a more promising future. That’s the college payoff.”

Explore further: Research shows workers who begin careers during recession suffer long-term, negative effects on earnings

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4.3 / 5 (6) Aug 09, 2011
It's true. I demand that of any plumber that enters my home to have a BA, at the minimum. Because a college degree must mean that the person is a better plumber than the yahoo down the street that's been doing it for 30 years, and has no degree.
5 / 5 (3) Aug 09, 2011
I agree with your sentiment Caeman. When we have a culture that is too exclusivist, and where societies' subtle maneouvres disenfranchise people from learning or hoard knowledge behind profit mongering and propagandizing then we have reason to call such institutions into question. Don't get me wrong, higher education, knowledge and wisdom are priceless for us, but only when they serve to uplift the individual and society unabashedly, only when they serve to conquer the challenges of time, encourage progress and enrich the spirit of all are they worthy of their ideals.
3.4 / 5 (5) Aug 09, 2011
It's true. I demand that of any plumber that enters my home to have a BA, at the minimum. Because a college degree must mean that the person is a better plumber than the yahoo down the street that's been doing it for 30 years, and has no degree.

The funny thing is, colleges don't even teach real job skills, in most cases. They teach text book "factoids" that nobody really even uses.

Then people like Steve Jobs and Bill Gates quit college because college was useless to them. They knew more and had better ideas than any of the professors.

"A dramatic increase in educational attainment must become a top national priority if we intend to build our labor pool and beat out other countries for the jobs of the future."

there is no labor pool, fools.

Automation and nanotechnology will replace everyone except engineers, scientists, and medical professions.

Your concept of economics is obsolete, very, very soon.
3.2 / 5 (5) Aug 09, 2011
It's already happening.

Look at Foxconn. Do you think those 500k jobs are ever coming back?

How many "new" jobs were made to make the robots? Not many. They made a robotic robot-assembly line.

10 engineers to design and program the robots
10 engineers to design and program the robotic robot assemblers.
100,000 maintenance techs

We're still in the hole by 399,980 jobs for Fox conn alone...

Now wait till everyone else does this...automated assembler for your automated assemblers. Fire 90 to 99% of your workers...

There is no labor pool, you fools.
3.4 / 5 (7) Aug 09, 2011
says the study produced by....you guessed it...a COLLEGE. what BS
2.3 / 5 (3) Aug 09, 2011
things are changing so fast now that people have no way of knowing what skillsets are going to be viable in 4 years when they complete their degree anyway.


People will always get sick and die, at least within the next several decades, so there's always Medical...if you have the stomache for it...


This is going to be around at least another 10 years, though IBM, Intel and other tech firms seem to have already solved the next 10 years worth of miniaturization, and are just developing the infrastructure to actually do it now...

at some point in the next two decades, we'll hit the molecular limit, and most of the engineers won't have jobs.


The possibilities here are huge, but who to work for and where? Most of the people working in this field are purely in university research.

We need engineers and innovators to figure out how to actually use these discoveries for practical, real world applications: manufacturing, food production, etc...
2 / 5 (3) Aug 09, 2011
Some stuff has almost no room for improvement.

Let's take glass manufacturing.

Even if you figured out how to make glass at room temperature, by using nanotechnology, etc, then how much energy, and therefore money, would actually be saved?

The energy cost of transport is actually more than the energy cost of manufacture, even in extreme cases such as the processing of glass and metals, unless you're doing vapor deposition or something like that.

For most things, even if it was free to manufacture, it would still cost money to buy the raw materials and transport it, so the sale price would still be non-zero.

If internal combustion engines were 100% efficient, gasoline and diesel would still cost around $1.65 per gallon, because about a quarter of the price is what it costs to get it out of the ground anyway...Electricity would still be around 9 cents per kilowatt hour...The best solution to energy is actually to make lighter cars and drive less.
3.4 / 5 (5) Aug 09, 2011
A re-design of car models every year is pointless, because it's extremely unlikely any significant breakthroughs have been made and optimized within one year. They should only be re-designed every 5 to 10 years or so, after "real" breakthroughs have been made in relevant technologies. It is a waste of resources to re-design an automobile every year with no significant change in the motor's efficiency, and just add some decals and a few bells and whistles...

Unfortunately, people are irrational, and "economics" is not very economical.

This is relevant to the thread, because jobs are irration and are not economical either.

Many of the jobs that exist in this country only exist because other people are irrational, and waste money on things that are useless, and in some cases even harmful: sports entertainment, drugs, alcohol, crime, "What-nots" and other display crap your aunt or grandma buys and sets on a shelf, etc.
3 / 5 (4) Aug 09, 2011
Ok, entertainment isn't useless, it's just that for some reason, people are irrational and pay atheletes and entertainers more than anyone else, but that shows my point...

I can buy a video game, which requires skill on my part, for just $65, and play it for countless hours, and programmers only made 50k to maybe 100k for the lead developer...


I can pay $50 to $300 to support a college coach, or a professional sports team's players who make 500 times more than I probably ever will, just so I can watch one football or baseball game for a few hours.

This is insanity on the part of everyone.

We are so efficient at things that matter, such that there is often little room for improvement even theoretically..., yet we waste all the savings on useless crap, instead of investing in medicine or other sectors of technology that still have theoretical rooms for improvement.

This is an abomination, IMO. It's literally "Idiocracy" in the workings...
2.3 / 5 (3) Aug 09, 2011
And above, if I buy a video game, at least I'm helping indirectly to fund the technological revolution, if nothing else, driving development of multi-core processors and video cards used in super computers.

If I buy a sports ticket for as much, or even several times as much money, then all I'm doing is funding an over-paid athelete, or an over-paid coach.

And the hypocrite university funds a study on education, but pays the sports coach more than 20 times as much as a professor or researcher, and gives the football player a scholarship to major in "Kinesiology," and probably a free tutor for basic requirements. While people who take real classes can't afford to get in, and have to pay tutors $10 to $20 per hour, because the professors are actually researchers who are forced to teach as criteria for their funding, and would rather be doing their research instead of teaching an irrelevant class.

The entire system is practically in vain, because people are irrational.
not rated yet Aug 09, 2011
Just consider the source before you accept this as gospel truth. Of course somebody who works for a college is going to tout its necessity. The value of a 4-year degree for the majority of Americans has been very much called into question by economists and others in the past few years, and these guys are on the defensive and digging in with their nails trying to hang on until their natural retirement age is reached.
I think more intelligent people are going to opt out of very lengthy expensive educations. We have a system now where not-smart people are completing master's degrees (granted, in less challenging fields like education) and are not capable of delivering much return on that education because they are lacking in raw intellectual goods. We need to return to a more selective college admission and financial aid system instead of everybody spending the first 25 years of their lives beating a dead horse.
not rated yet Aug 10, 2011

While I agree it doesn't seem fair, it's just supply and demand.

There are x seats available at a stadium/arena and y people who want to see the sports event.

Since y >> x, the stadium owners can charge a ton for each ticket and still sell out every game (depending on the sport and the area). And ther are more still who will watch on TV.

Similarly, there are only so many world class athletes in the world. Since the pool of athletes is so small, the stadium owners will pay top dollar for these athletes to join their team instead of another team. Since the stadiums make so much from sales, they can offer their players tons of money. It's circular.

So a single athlete who's making millions is "supplying" millions of fans with entertainment all the time (through the TV revenue and stadium revenue). Similar logic applies to movie stars/other celebs.

not rated yet Aug 10, 2011
People like to be entertained and are willing to pay for it. Since the ratio of spectators to athletes is so high, the wealth is concentrated.

People are also willing to pay for the things they need (think doctor's bills or the prices of cars) and will generally spend more on these important things than they will on entertainment.

The problem is that there are significantly more professionals out there (doctors, engineers, etc.) than there are professional athletes. Because of this, the money put into buying a car, getting a broken leg fixed, etc. is distributed to many more people and the wealth is less concentrated. Also, an individual professional only services so many patients/customers in a day (dwarfed by the number of people entertained by the athlete).

You would need some kind of forced redistribution of wealth the government might be able to funnel more money to professional employees, but people who live in (semi)democracies generally frown upon communist practices.
not rated yet Aug 13, 2011
Absurd. They use the word "Critical" and then "on average". These things don't go together. Reality check: college helps mediocre people because they need a paper degree to show that they've jumped through the necessary hoops to show they might be able to do some jobs. But there are many people who do not need that piece of paper nor the waste of time spent in college to achieve high economic success. I know many people who don't have college degrees who are successes including inventors and business owners. I'm an inventor, business owner, farmer, scientist, teacher and more. I happen to have a college degree but I was already doing before I wasted the time and money on that degree and that degree made no difference. Nobody has ever asked me for my degree or where I went to college. What I do now I planned out when I was 15 years old. I stuck to my plan and achived my goals. 35 years later I have more ahead and continue working towards those. College and a degree are not critical.
1 / 5 (2) Aug 13, 2011
Of course this implies that a college degree represents some objective level of achievement and not a piece of paper.
5 / 5 (1) Aug 15, 2011
In an American society obsessed with money grubbing this study is designed to be very motivating.

5 / 5 (1) Aug 15, 2011
"It is a waste of resources to re-design an automobile every year with no significant change in the motor's efficiency, and just add some decals and a few bells and whistles..." - Techno

But what is bad for society is good for the corporation since the constant redesign of parts and goods means that there can be no development of companies that produce similar or superior parts for the redesigns. The barriers to production are too high and the economies of scale just aren't there.

This in turn gives the manufacturer a monopoly on the model, and the ability to kill off the model as a time of their choosing, thus allowing them to manipulate to some extent the time when a owner of his discontinued product purchases a new model.

It is called "market shaping".

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