With college costs going through the roof, it’s natural to wonder if college is actually worth it. The answer, according to several recent reports, is YES.

In its recently released Rising Above the Threshold report, the Institute for Higher Education Policy found that a college degree provides value for about 93% of students, with public colleges reporting even higher rates: 99% of public four-year colleges and 94% of public two-year colleges met the value threshold. The report determines that a college provides value if students earn at least as much as high school graduates and enough to cover the cost of their education after 10 years.

The Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System also evaluates college value, including in its Economic Well-Being of US Households report. Among other things, the report asks adults who attended college if it was financially worthwhile. More than 2/3 of bachelor’s degree holders said that college was worthwhile, while only 9% said that they wish they had done less or no college. However, the overall high satisfaction rate has some caveats:

  • Among adults who started but did not complete college, only 30% felt their education was financially worthwhile
  • Only 43% of people with outstanding student loan balances felt it was worthwhile, compared to 53% without student loans
  • Almost 2/3 of people who did not earn a bachelor’s degree wished they had pursued more education
  • Almost half of adults who studied liberal arts and social sciences wished they had studied something else. By contrast, only about 1/4 of engineers regretted their choice of major, and almost 3/4 said their education was worth the cost.

Both surveys point to the challenges of high college costs. For example, the IHEP survey indicated that doubling the Pell Grant award amount and increasing tuition grants would significantly increase the percent of students and of colleges meeting the value threshold.

Want some hard data? The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Education Pays report shows that average weekly earnings for those with bachelor’s degrees was 65% higher than for those with only a high school diploma, and the unemployment rate for those with bachelor’s degrees was slightly more than half of the rate for those with only high school diplomas.

Education is worth it– but that doesn’t mean every college is worth it. Check out my book, How to Pay for College, to create a plan to get an education that is worth it for your student.