The cost of not going to college is rising, according to a Pew Research Center analysis. “On virtually every measure of economic well-being and career attainment—from personal earnings to job satisfaction to the share employed full time—young college graduates are outperforming their peers with less education,” the report finds. The gap is widening between four-year college graduates and high school graduates.
Millennial college graduates ages 25 to 32 who are working full time earn about $45,500, while high school-only young adults average $28,000. The $17,500 gap is a record. College-educated Millennials also are more likely to be employed full time (89% vs. 82%) and significantly less likely to be unemployed (3.8% vs. 12.2%).
Median earnings for college graduates haven’t increased much in since 1986, but less-educated workers are doing much worse than in the past.
Young people today are far more likely to be living in poverty, Pew reports. Among those ages 25 to 32, 22% with only a high school diploma are living in poverty, compared with 6% of college-educated young adults.
In contrast, only 7% of Baby Boomers who had only a high school diploma were in poverty in 1979 when they were in their late 20s and early 30s.
Despite rising college costs, 72% of four-year graduates said college has paid off; 17% believe it will pay off in the future. Even among the two-thirds of college-educated Millennials with student loans, 86% say their degrees have been worth it or expect that they will be in the future.
Graduates had some regrets: Many said they wished they’d gained work experience and studied more in college.
Unfortunately, Pew combines Millennials with associate degrees, certificates or “some college” but no credential in one category. There’s a huge gap between people with a few community college courses, those who’ve earned a vocational certificate and those who’ve earned an associate degree in a vocational field. (Associate degrees in general education typically don’t raise earnings significantly unless the student transfers and completes a bachelor’s degree.)