Despite High Costs Students Believe 4 Year Degree Is Worth Pursuing
BY DELECE SMITH-BARROW
The Hechinger Report conducted a survey in collaboration with the APM Research Lab and APM Reports’ Educate team. To view the full results of the survey, visit APM Research Lab.
With the cost of college steadily rising, and student debt continuing to overwhelm millions of borrowers, it would make sense if young adults questioned the value of a bachelor’s degree. But more than half of them still believe it’s worth the price.
“Cost is all about what you truly think the value of it is,” said Anthony Bernazani, a 34-year old graduate of a community college and a four-year school, George Mason University, both in Virginia. Bernazani, a defense contractor, believes that because of the job opportunities, salary and intellectual gains that can come with a degree, “the value that you get out of it is worth the cost.”
Despite the weight of student loans, borrowing for a bachelor’s degree offers a return on investment that will last a lifetime, higher education experts say.
With a four-year degree, “on average you make two-thirds more than high school graduates do,” said James Kvaal, president of the Institute for College Access & Success, a nonprofit group that works to improve college access and affordability. “You’re only about half as likely to be unemployed. It is worth borrowing money.”
It’s that idea of long-term gain over short-term pain that may be spurring young adults to keep borrowing, even as national student loan balances increased by $15 billion in the last quarter of 2018, according to the Center for Microeconomic Data at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
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“I think people recognize, especially young Americans, that if you don’t go to college, you don’t have a lot of opportunities and avenues available to you,” said Rachel Fishman, deputy director for higher education research at New America, a think tank headquartered in Washington, D.C.
And compared to a certificate or an associate degree, on average, “the bachelor’s degree still performs better over someone’s lifetime in terms of return on investment,” she said.
Considering these statistics, she’s surprised more young adults don’t believe a four-year degree is worth the cost.