The Upside Case Of A College Education In One Chart

Tyler Durden's picture

Late last night we presented a scathing report highlighting the extensive downside case why a college education may be best described as a "waste of time and money." But surely it can't be all "cons" - after all, with student debt now well over an all time high $1 trillion (ignoring that a substantial amount of that notional is used for anything but) there must be a reason why year after year record amounts of young adults scramble into the warm embrace and soothing promises about the future of a college education... which has never cost more.

Why? In order to present a balanced view, on the chart below we show the conventional wisdom about the "pros" of higher learning.

We leave it up to our readers to decide if the lifetime NPV of loan outflows is enough to make up for the increased weekly wages and so called greater career opportunities arising from having a piece of paper with some Latin scribbles on it.

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.
RonBurgundy's picture

They still put Latin scribbles on them? I thought that was another casuality of recent days. . . .

ebworthen's picture

'ere long those degrees will be signed with a roughly scribbled "X".

CrazyCooter's picture

The note at the bottom of the chart is the spoiler; averages are for full time employment. That means (unemployed) PhDs in Liberal Arts aren't counted. This most assuredly skewsthe salaries in the direction of enegineering and applied sciences incomes.



mjcOH1's picture

There's still good money to be made in engineering and other technical fields.   Not so much in Black/Women's studies...although the EBT/section 8 perks are top-notch.  

Yes, not all degrees are created equal.   Ditto for people.

icanhasbailout's picture

Hey I've gt an awesome idea!!! Let's totally pretend that the unemployment rate isn't vastly different for recent graduates!


4.4% unemployment with a B.A., eh? How come over 50% of recent graduates can't find jobs then?

Retronomicon's picture

You hit the nail on the head cooter, what about all the part time employed graduates?  Plenty of those too.

Richard Chesler's picture

Truly progressive schools scribble in jive.


centerline's picture


by virtue of tha present diploma, have ordered dat he or she trip off n' rejoice up in tha peculiar rights, privileges, n' honors which, wheresoever it may be, pertain ta dat degree.




The Chief's picture

By virtue of the authority vested in me by the Universitatus Committeeatum E Pluribus Unum I hereby confer upon you the honorary degree of Th.D.....Doctor of Thinkology!

wareco's picture

Nice reference to the Wizard of Oz.

Rainman's picture

Bonitas non est pessimis esse meliorem  < It is not goodness to be better than the worst >

RaceToTheBottom's picture

Interesting but you need to put the types of degrees in the third axis. 

A PHD in Underwater basket weaving is not the same as engineering. 

Plus look at the incontinuity of the professional degree.  I am assuming that the scumbag lawyers are in there....  WEven with the manipulated markets we have, they will get theirs.

Anusocracy's picture

The local yewni has a summer online course, SW290.

Surviving the Coming Zombie Apocalypse: Disasters, Catastrophes and Human Behavior

seek's picture

And strangely enough, that might be one of the most practical courses offered for those being turned loose into the real world in the next 5- 10 years.

BlindMonkey's picture

Certainly more applicable than the Keynesian economic classes.

NotApplicable's picture

Sorry, but I'd bet that it IS a Keynesian Economics class (Rent Seeking 101).

zuuma's picture

"A PHD in Underwater basket weaving is not the same as engineering"

True dat.

But I would pay a few bucks to see someone actually do that in a carnival.

(preferrably if said PhD also had a nose ring & some regrettable tattoos on her nude body)

Anusocracy's picture

They had it last year.

Apparently it is highly rated.

FuzzyDunlop21's picture

Also, PhD degrees in things that are actually useful generally do not cost the student anything. The taxpayer, on the other hand. . .

As a doctoral candidate I have not yet received my PhD, yet since I am working all day in lab, I am paid. Not very much, no, but enough to live on and enough that I should be able to pay off my undergrad debt by the time Im finished in 3 years. 

Whether or not these graduate programs are worth what they cost to the taxpayer is debateable (I suspect if you eliminate all the BS administrators who really just get in my way it would be a lot cheaper.), but as a grad student in the sciences you cant go wrong, as long as you dont mind working weekends and the occasional overnight.

In a non-science, however, like psychology (no psychology is not a science) or economics (nope not a science either), where you have to pay tuition, I would not recommend it unless you enjoy serfdom

zaphod's picture

This was always my same thought while I was in graduate school (in the sciences). 

When I looked at the liberal arts schools, I could never understand why the students in those programs did not see that the reason they had to pay tution themselves and no one was willing to pay tuition for them, was simply that the market did not value their degrees and there were few prospects post-graduation.

My reasoning was if no one was willing to pay your tution for you (NSF paid mine), then that was the strongest indicator that no one needs your degree. 

h0oS's picture

Might as well be awarding steaming turds and charging for the privilege. Roll up for a Phd in indentured servitude. 

buzzsaw99's picture

a degree is not enough. ya gotta brown nose too.

nuclearsquid's picture

also nepotism and judeism help.

ILLILLILLI's picture

Don't forget "backstabbing" and "throat-cutting"...other essential tools for getting ahead in todays modern workplace.


underman's picture

"Sociopathic behavior" gets you straight to the top!

Cpl Hicks's picture

Witness Barry O and the "Chicago Way"

Lore's picture

The graph assumes uniformity of institutions, departments, degree programs and the students who enroll in them, completely ignoring Sleaze Factor. Do you have a suitable psychopathic pedigree?  ...Need I go on?

ebworthen's picture

So the H.S. graduate is getting paid $16/hour, and the Bachelor's degree holder is getting almost $28/hour?

Where are they getting these numbers?  Government employment, or Wall Street?

seek's picture

Notice they're selecting by age, so that they're leaving out those most likely to be unemployed and those with the lowest salaries (ie people under 25.) and they're not counting part timers. That's going to skew the sample pool a lot. They're also computing using those that are still employed rather than laid off, so that's going to skew the numbers even further.

They're also probably counting benefits in the numbers. My brother (who I have mentioned here many times) is shutting down his business, is 55 and has nothing but a HS diploma. His first job offer was $16/hr inclusive of benefits, which actually is a pretty suck offer, but it does deomnstrate well that those >50 that are hard workers are far more employable than recent college grads, degrees or not.

daveO's picture

And, another thing! When I went to my 10 yr. HS reunion I found that all the College grads had to move hundreds, or thousands, of miles away from home. They all lived in expensive cities(the most expensive being San Clemente,Ca). I noticed how less happy or cheerful they were when compared to the 'locals'(many of whom did 2 yrs. at local CC). They were simply Debt Slaves with a degree. That was my last Reunion. It was too depressing to see what Slavery had done to so many of them. These charts are a 'Siren's Song' to fool the future 'Class of Debt Servitude'. 

underman's picture

This article isn't complete without considering welfare payouts.

Seasmoke's picture

I rather lie , cheat and sleep my way to the top. Plus I get a 4 year head start and no debt.

Cpl Hicks's picture

You DO have a debt to pay; that wrinkled old cock you gotta suck on a regular basis.
But,hey, maybe that's a perk to you!

slightlyskeptical's picture

Try providing the end of the day ramp without having a college degree!

Oh regional Indian's picture

Everything by degrees. 

1 2 33....

dogismycopilot's picture

is that pre or post tax weekly income?


Gandalf6900's picture

Its most definitely PRE-TAX, and hard to believe at that, maybe in NY City...

seek's picture

Pre-tax with massive selection bias (no part time, excluding people under 25 with lower starting salaries.)

The data set is functionally useless for decisionmaking if you're 18 and trying to decide on college. They're omitting precisely the group that has graduated from college in the past four years (e.g. those most fucked over by the current economy) or so from the statistics.

Robot Traders Mom's picture

We live in a ghetto economy. A degree in finance (read: doing absolutely nothing constructive) is more valuable than a degree in nursing (read: saving lives). This cannot go on forever.

If someone is going to pay for an 'education', it should be in a trade school, learning a needed skill. 

CrashisOptimistic's picture

Needed skill?  Like how to swipe an EBT?

centerline's picture

Yup.  There will always be a place for finance.  But when it takes the lead, nothing good is going to come from it.

underman's picture

Even a degree in finance is useless without the proper connections. 

Gandalf6900's picture

Partially agree.

While I do despise what the financial sector has become, we must remember that many beautiful things have come to be thanks to the flow of capital and the management of such. Anyone hear of the Reneissance? Without free flowing capital that spectacular period of history defined by Art, culture and illumination would have never come to be.


CrashisOptimistic's picture

Here are my Latin scribbles:

Accingite vos societatem mortem


mayhem_korner's picture



Give me raw smarts and work ethic.  Degrees used to validate those things.  Now, not so much.

There's probably the same number of successful college grads as there was 25 years ago...except now there are many, many more college grads being indoctrinated in the system.

adr's picture

Where's the chart for the best degree known to man (if you're into scamming money), the Star of David degree? Of course it can't be earned, only birthed.

Gandalf6900's picture

It can be bought though

ILLILLILLI's picture

It should be pointed out that the Type "A" is generally preferred over the Type "S"...especially if "money handling" is required in any manner.

Tzanchan's picture

You can convert, but unlike Scientology, they don't perform a Cashectomy on you. Come on in and enjoy the benefits of our ZOG, right?