This has been a topic of debate for quite some time now.  Some freshly graduated students struggle to find work within their field of study, working at the same coffee shops or department stores that kept them stable while attending school, others accept jobs that they are overqualified for, Hoping that the position will last them until they find something more worthwhile, leaving them to question if the student loan debt they have tallied up is actually worth it.

Well is it? That answer, according to a new set of income statistics, is yes.  A 4 year college degree has never been as valuable as it is now.  The pay gap between those with a degree and those without is at an all-time high. College graduates between the ages of 25 and 32 who are working a full time position earn nearly $18,000 more per year than those who only finished High school according to research made by the Pew Research Center.  The number of students graduating from a college level is dropping every year, and it is directly affecting the pay scale. If there were more qualified individuals entering the workforce with a college education, the gap between those individuals and those who only have a high school diploma would shrink. The fact that the gap in pay is still growing means that we still aren’t producing enough graduates.

But a 4 year degree doesn’t always mean success.  Arts and humanities degrees seem to be much more varied in pay than, say engineering degrees which even the least lucrative can generate a return of $500,000 over a span of 20 years.  A graduate with an engineering degree from an Ivy League school could expect to be 1.1 million dollars better off in a 20 year span than an individual who never pursued a degree at all.

Since 1983, the cost of attending a university has nearly risen to 5 times the rate of inflation and the salaries of those who graduate have stayed the same for most of the last 10 years.  Student debt is stopping many people from buying a house, vehicles, starting businesses, and even having children.  Nearly one third of the people taking on student loans, drop out of school. Our job market doesn’t help things either. College graduates are suffering from the economy’s weak and unbalanced growth. The average hourly wage for a graduate is around $32.60, which over the last decade has only seen a 1% increase. What’s worse is that the average wage for everyone else has dropped to around %16.50, a decrease of about 5%. The numbers don’t lie. It is clearly evident that it is more valuable to have a college education when entering the work force. Only time will tell how long the benefit of higher education will outweigh the cost of the education itself.