Worth it, For Now

Guess what? College is still worth the price.

That’s according to a study released earlier in the week by the Georgetown University Center for Education and the Workforce indicating that people with college degrees fared better than those without them in the latest recession.

Nearly 200,000 jobs for workers with at least a Bachelor’s degree were added during the recession, and 2 million more jobs for college-educated workers have been added during the recovery. More than half of the jobs created in the recovery have gone to workers with a Bachelor’s degree or better, even though these highly educated workers make up just a little more than a third of the labor force.

Workers with an Associate’s degree or some college lost 1.8 million jobs because of the recession and have regained 1.6 million jobs in the recovery. At the same time, workers with a high school education or less lost more than 5.6 million jobs during the recession—and have continued to lose jobs during the slow recovery. Correspondingly, nearly four out of every five jobs destroyed by the recession were held by workers with a high school diploma or less.

That’s interesting, if not particularly surprising.

What is surprising about this latest report is all of the discussion about college being “worth it.” As Antony Carnevale, one of the authors of the study, explained when interviewed at NPR’s All Things Considered: “the only thing that’s more expensive than going to college is not going to college. You really don’t have a choice.”

This study “should put to rest all the angst about the value of a college education, Carnevale explained.

The thing with this is that “worth the price” is sort of vague. Worth what price?

The fact that college graduates make more money than people who didn’t go to college is all well and good, but this sort of talk ignores the trend line: college costs are rising while median incomes simply aren’t. At what point will college cease to be worth the price?

Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer