Is College 'Worth It'? One Study Says Maybe Not

The unjustifiably high cost of college tuition in the US has dragged a whole generation into debt slavery. The average cost of a 4-year degree in the US is 3x higher than it was in 1990. Even tuition at in-state schools is climbing more quickly than incomes.

As more people are forced to go into deep levels of debt to afford an education, more would-be students are being forced to take a hard look and reevaluate the ROI on a college degree.

And as college tuition continues to outpace wage growth, for a growing number of people, the answer to 'is college worth it?' is going to be no.

A reporter at Clever.com did some digging, and tabulated the ROI on different types of degrees: the bachelor's, master's and doctorate.

Generally speaking, people with at least a bachelor's degree typically earn more money over their lifetime than those who never attended college, and it's also easier to get a job with a degree.

But while Americans with a bachelor's degree might be on to something, those who earn a Master's and PHD-level degrees can't say the same.

While nearly half the population has a bachelor's degree, only 13% of Americans have a master's or Phd-level degree.

And according to Clever's analysis, many higher-level degrees may not be worth the time and money that students spend.

In fact, the longer someone spends in school, the more the value of their degrees diminishes.

Of course, ROI changes depending on the subject that an individual studies. Clever found that the best bachelor's degrees, unsurprisingly, tend to be in the STEM area: operations research, petroleum engineering, biological and physical sciences, biopsychology and gerontology.

 
 

Looking to the future, the major that has the best potential job prospects is - surprise, surprise - engineering. Though, to be sure, even some subsets of the engineering field are starting to see demand for new workers slow as unemployment in the US remains (fortunately for most Americans) stuck at multi-decade lows.

 

When it comes to valuing an education, calculating ROI and performing other simple financial analytics can be helpful. But there's an intangible aspect to education that is also worth examining. One way to explore this is by studying how 'meaningful' they find their jobs

 

Here, the data are showing us something that we find to be very interesting. Namely, that those who spend more money on a low-ROI bachelor's degree often find their careers to be more 'meaningful' than your average engineer. Does this mean there's an inverse relationship between spiritual fulfillment and monetary compensation when it comes to ones' career path? Possibly. But would like to suggest another possible explanation.

The children of America's wealthy often choose low-yield fields like journalism and English, since they don't face as much pressure to maximize earnings (their parents very often cover the cost of their education and living expenses) they can enjoy finding 'meaning' in low-paying careers like being a social media manager or writing for Gawker Media - careers that also don't require the hard work and dedication required of, say, a mechanical engineer at Boeing.