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College Degrees May Bring Debt, But Can Also Bring Higher Wages, Advancement

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Friday, July 18, 2014 at 10:00 AM

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j.o.h.n. walker / Flickr

Chances are that if you’ve nailed a college degree to your wall recently, you’re also nailed with debt.

But some new research from the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland says degree earners are still better off in the long-term than those without a diploma.

The study examined households of people in their 20s where at least one member had a college degree and compared them to households where no one had more than a high school education.

Not surprisingly, the college grad households had more debt - $15,000 more.


Dan Carroll co-authored the study.  He’s with the Federal Reserve in Cleveland.

“While $15,000 difference is a significant amount of money, that’s actually still relatively small compared to the expected difference in lifetime earnings between someone with just a high school degree and someone who’s completed a college degree,” says Dan Carroll of the Federal Reserve in Cleveland.  He co-authored the study with colleague Amy Higgins.

Their research shows that adults 30 and over with a college degree earn about $17,000 more a year than those who didn’t go to college.  As Carroll suggests, it opens more doors down range.

“You’ll likely have access to senior level positions later in your career that you might otherwise be prohibited from. Those senior positions can pay quite a bit more.”

That’s true in the main scheme of things, but other studies highlight caveats.  Recent analysis by The Economist magazine points out – not all degrees are equally useful.  A lot depends on where you went college, how much you paid, what you studied, and what career field you ended up in.

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