College isn’t for everyone. A few people have dropped out of college and become billionaires. But, most college dropouts struggle financially. Students who drop out of college are four times more likely to default on their federal student loans than students who graduate. Obtaining an undergraduate or graduate college degree, if the student has adequate academic preparation, is a more certain path to long-term success than any other option.
According to data from the U.S. Census Bureau and the Bureau of Labor Statistics at the U.S. Department of Labor, students who receive a Bachelor’s degree or a more advanced degree have, on average, more than twice the income of high school drop-outs and students with just a high school diploma. The earnings advantage is even greater for women and minorities with college degrees. Bachelor’s degree recipients have estimated life-time earnings that are more than $1 million greater than the lifetime earnings of people with just a high school diploma.
People with a Bachelor’s degree or a more advanced degree have half the unemployment rate of people with just a high school diploma, according to annual unemployment data by educational attainment from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Even some college education will be beneficial. People who obtain an Associate’s degree or certificate earn more, on average, and are less likely to be unemployed than people who have just a high school diploma.
College graduates are also healthier, live longer, less likely to die of cancer, less likely to commit crimes, more likely to vote and more likely to volunteer. The Common Good Forecaster provides a tool for exploring the impact of educational attainment on communities. Additional data concerning the benefits of a college education can be found in the Education Pays publication of the College Board and the publications of the Center on Education and the Workforce at Georgetown University.