Higher Education Trends: The Cost of Not Going to College


This is a post I wrote for the RMS Research Bunker Blog about a recent study that quantified the economic differences between graduates and non-graduates. Even as someone who has been involved in higher education market research for more than a decade, and as someone employed at a university, I was a little surprised at the level of disparity. The situation faced by much of the American workforce is, frankly, worrying and in my personal opinion, calls for a solution beyond simply “college for everyone.” That said, this research serves as a powerful counter-argument against those who believe that the payoff of a college education no longer exists.

The Research Bunker

Over the past few years, there has been a growing concern that high education costs combined with uncertain employment prospects for recent graduates have created a situation where a college degree is no longer worth the cost. The Research Bunker Blog addressed this topic in a post last year about fiscal challenges in higher education. Our main observation at the time was while the ROI for a degree might not be what it once was, there was still undeniably a need for a college educated workforce. Findings from a recent study by the Pew Research Center have reinforced that idea, and suggest that although the cost of going to college is considerable, the cost of not going is increasingly severe.

The study examined the differences between “Millennial” (age 25 to 32) college graduates and their peers with less educational attainment. It also incorporated an analysis that tracked the results of how…

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