As the debate continues to rage over the value of a college education amid a tough employment market and skyrocketing tuition rates, Americans may be misunderstanding one huge fact. Young adults with a college degree are much more likely to be employed than those without one.
Americans age 25 to 34 with a four-year college degree have a startling low unemployment rate of just 2.1 percent, compared to 7 percent for those without a degree. (The overall unemployment rate is now 4.7 percent.) But more than half of Americans believe that those with a degree are less likely to be employed than those without one, according to new survey from The New York Times.
The public perception of the value of a college degree may reflect the fact that today’s young adults are not as financially stable as their parents were. They’re more likely to live with their parents, more likely to be underemployed (if not unemployed) and more likely to have debt than previous generations. Even those without debt face housing costs that eat up a large part of their wages. Still, while the financial prospects of today’s young college grads may be bleaker than those of their parents, they’re still far better off than those who don’t have a college degree.
Getting a college degree is clearly a good investment, although overpaying for that degree is still a bad idea. “There is some evidence that having a degree doesn’t guarantee a good job, but the alternative is much worse,” says Times writer Quoctrung Bui.
Numerous studies show the payoff for getting a degree. Students with a college degree earn an average of $18,000 more annually than their peers without one.
Even if they’re better off than those without a degree, college graduates may struggle on today’s starting salaries. Those who need to borrow a large amount of money to finance their education, or who are going into a profession that doesn’t pay very well, will have more financial security if they attend a lower-cost school and don’t have to struggle with substantial debt payments after graduation.