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High School vs Associate Degree earnings

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, approximately 3.1 million youths graduated from high school between January and October 2011.  There are many options available to them. The most obvious options are the following:

  • Work
  • Attend a Vocational or Trade Program
  • Earn a 2-year Degree at a Community College
  • Attend a 4-year College or University
  • Enlist in the U.S. Military

From the nearly 3.1 million youth age 16 to 24 who graduated from high school between January and October 2011, about 2.1 million (68.3 percent) were enrolled in college in October 2011.

Today, the escalating cost of higher education is causing many to question the value of continuing education beyond high school.  Many question the high cost of tuition, the opportunity cost of choosing college over full-time employment, and the accumulation of thousands of dollars of debt is, in the long run, worth the investment.  The risk is especially large for low-income families who have a difficult time making ends meet without the additional burden of college tuition and fees.

In order to determine whether higher education is worth the investment, it is useful to examine what is known about the value of higher education and the rates of return on investment to both the individual and to society.

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