Study: College Degree Holds Its Value

A new study shows college graduates have fared much better in the economic recovery than those without a degree. The Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce reports that nearly all of the jobs recovered since the economic downturn have required a post-secondary degree. And despite the struggles of many recent graduates, workers with college degrees still enjoy a substantial wage benefit over those with only a high school education.

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There's been lots of hand ringing about the value of a college education these days. But a study out today shows that since the beginning of the recession in 2007, newly created jobs have gone overwhelmingly to people with a college degree. NPR's Claudio Sanchez explains.

CLAUDIO SANCHEZ, BYLINE: The study by Georgetown University's Center on Education and the Workforce looked at five years worth of employment data and concluded that during the recession, the economy created about 200,000 jobs for workers with at least a bachelor's degree. During the recovery, though, the economy added another two million jobs, almost all for college-educated workers.

Economist Anthony Carnevale, the lead author of the study, says this was surprising.

ANTHONY CARNEVALE: And I think the thing that people need to hear in this is that to the extent that we keep looking in the rear-view mirror at the old economy that had more good high school jobs, the economy that's coming is one where the value of education after high school really determines whether or not you join the middle class.

SANCHEZ: Carnevale says it's now clear that recent college graduates would have faced a much, much tougher job market had they not gone to college. Today, the jobless rate for recent graduates has dropped to 6.8 percent, but the unemployment rate for recent high school graduates with no college is 24 percent, in large part because the economy lost so many jobs in manufacturing, construction and other blue-collar occupations.

CARNEVALE: Since the recession began, we've lost about six million of those jobs, and we're still losing those jobs. They're not coming back.

SANCHEZ: In terms of wages, the study found that people with a post-secondary education have the advantage, even in blue-collar occupations. For example, if you have a college education and work for a business where half or more of the employees do not, you probably make 35 percent more than a worker with a high school diploma.

Men have been especially hard hit because so many have put off or ruled out college in recent years. Carnevale says that's why this study should be a wake-up call for men.

CARNEVALE: The structure of the economy no longer favors them, and they have to go to college. We see an uptick in their college enrollment during this recession. They're increasing their enrollment faster than women are, although they're still behind women.

SANCHEZ: And finally, says Carnevale, this study should put to rest all the angst about the value of a college education.

CARNEVALE: The only thing that's more expensive than going to college is not going to college, so you really don't have a choice.

SANCHEZ: The question for higher education is, will this put just enough pressure on institutions to remain affordable? Claudio Sanchez, NPR News.

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