Despite cost, survey claims college education pays off

BY Bridget Bowman  February 11, 2014 at 4:06 PM EDT
Photo By Glenn Asakawa/The Denver Post via Getty Images

A college student studies at Regis University library. Photo By Glenn Asakawa/The Denver Post via Getty Images

According to a Pew Research Center survey released Tuesday, college graduates today are in a much better economic position compared to their peers with only a high school degree.

Adults of the so-called millennial generation, who are currently between the ages of 25 and 32, are much more likely to have a higher income and job satisfaction if they have a bachelor’s degree or higher. The median income for a millennial college graduate, the survey says, is typically around $45,500, compared to $28,000 for a high school graduate. Also, more than half of college graduates say they are “very satisfied” with their jobs, compared to 37 percent of those with a high school degree or less.

Millennials with only a high school degree are also more likely to be unemployed or living in poverty. The survey showed that the unemployment rate for high school graduates is 12.8 percent, more than three times the rate among college graduates. Furthermore, 21.8 percent of high school graduates live in poverty, which is nearly four times the amount of college graduates in poverty.

The Pew survey showed that this gap between college and high school educated adults has only widened over time. In 1979, the rate of high school graduates in poverty was only double that of college graduates. The annual income disparity between high school and college graduates has also nearly doubled over the past 30 years.

While the economic gap between high school and college graduates has widened, young adults today are generally worse off than in past generations. Wages have stayed relatively the same when adjusted for inflation, despite the dramatically higher levels of education among today’s young adults. ”The Millennial generation should be earning more than earlier generations of young adults,” wrote the authors of the report. “But they’re not.” Furthermore, the overall percentage of young adults in poverty has doubled over the past 30 years, regardless of education level.

Although young adults today face a more bleak economic outlook than generations past, many still believe a college education is worth the price in today’s economy. Despite the rising cost of college, 88 percent of millennials with a bachelor’s degree or higher say that their education has paid off.