Is Higher Education Worth Higher Prices?
Many students over the last couple of decades have been raised by parents who viewed college not as an option, but an inevitability – no matter the cost. But as the price of higher education goes through the roof and combines with rampant unemployment for recent college graduates, some people are beginning to wonder if the massive student loans are worth it.
So, we asked people directly.
More than 1,500 of you took our survey and told us your opinions regarding whether college is necessary for career success, if it is still worth the money, and other questions as to how student loans have impacted daily life.
The answers were staggering.
Is College Worth the Cost?
The big question we wanted to know is whether people still believe college is worth it. The answer is…kind of.
Although the majority (61%) said it is, 35% said college is not worth the expense. When you think about it, that number is remarkable because of the huge investment higher education represents. People are taking out gargantuan student loans and committing at least four years of their lives, yet more than one-third of respondents feel that commitment is a bad idea.
Is College Necessary for Success?
I’m 34 years old, and I was raised by parents who told me in no uncertain terms that a college degree is absolutely essential for career success. I know I’m not alone, as this has been the prevailing attitude for a couple of decades.
Yet despite that, 43% of those surveyed believe a college degree isn’t necessary to succeed in life. Perhaps it’s because 36% of respondents don’t even work in a field related to their degree.
However, despite questioning the wisdom of a college education for themselves, their tune changed considerably when asked about their children (and future children). A whopping 82% said they want their kids to earn a college degree.
For many people, the decision to attend college is largely a monetary one, thanks to the skyrocketing cost of higher education that forces people to take out student loans.
The good news among our respondents is 27% said they graduated college with no student loan debt. That’s compared to 14% who said they owed $10,000 or less, 13% who owe $20,000 to $30,000, 12% who owe $10,000 to $20,000, and 4% who owe a staggering $100,000 or more.
Forty-three percent of people surveyed are still paying student loans.
Men and Women
It appears gender differences also come into play where college is concerned.
Asked whether they believe college is necessary for professional success, 63% of women believe that to be the case. Compare that to the 49% of men who feel the same way. Yet 64% of men said college was worth the cost, whereas only 59% of women reported the same.
Also, more women (49%) than men (37%) said they are still paying off student loans.
Age is a Factor
As you can imagine, responses to the question of whether college is worth the cost varied most by age. That’s probably because college was far more affordable for older people than it is for today’s youth.
Here’s the percentage of people who think college is worth it, broken down by age:
- 18-25: 46%
- 26-32: 52%
- 33-39: 57%
- 40-50: 62%
- 51-60: 72%
- 61+ : 80%
It All Comes Down to Money
Student loans were the biggest differentiator when it came to answers that varied by age group.
More than half of people 61 years old and above (54%) graduated from college with no debt. That number drops to 25% for people 40-50 years old, and 18% for both the 26-32 range and respondents 18-25.
However, 29% of people who are 50 and older said they are still paying off student loans.
Regrets? They've Had a Few
We wanted to know what people would say if they were magically given the chance to go back in time and have the opportunity to change their decision about college. Would they do it all over again or not?
Interesting, 12% of people said college was not worth the cost and they would skip it altogether. Twenty-nine percent said they would still go to college, but they would choose a cheaper school as an alternative.
When it comes to student loans, 31% said they regret taking out loans and wouldn’t do it again if they could go back in time.
A Lack of Research
Perhaps the most stunning revelation in this survey has to do with the fact that people don’t seem to look to the future when deciding on college. Especially considering you can use tools like Salary.com's Salary Wizard to easily and quickly look up how much jobs pay.
Nearly half (49%) said they didn’t consider return on investment before choosing a college and taking out student loans. Although money isn’t everything, considering your targeted job and the salary it pays is an essential part of figuring out a plan to pay back loans.
Even if you don’t know exactly what you’ll be doing after graduation, narrow it down the best you can and research pay by fields instead of individual jobs.
Real World Effects of Student Loans
The effects of paying back student loans are being felt well outside the classroom and after graduation.
Of the people we surveyed, 14% delayed getting married, 32% delayed buying a home, and 42% delayed contributing to retirement funds at work because of student loans. And the problem is especially bleak amongst young people.
Nearly one-quarter (23%) of respondents 26-32 said they are putting off marriage because of student loans, with that number jumping to 41% for people 18-25. Home purchases are restricted even more in those two groups. Sixty-five percent of 18 to 25-year-olds say they are putting off a home purchase, and half of those 26-32 say the same.
Check out our infographic!
When You Do Get That Job, Negotiate Salary
At the same time you're looking at colleges, make sure you identify your expected career and figure out how much you'll be paid upon graduation. Salary.com can help you get paid fairly what you do.
The first thing you should do is research, so you're able to come to the table armed with the knowledge of what your job is worth. Use our free Salary Wizard below to find out what's a fair salary for your position. You can enter your location, education level, years of experience and more to find out an appropriate salary range before you negotiate.