Analysis Adds to Data Showing the Economic Benefits of a College Degree

A new report from the State Higher Education Executive Officers offers further evidence of the value of a college degree in terms of future earnings potential. The report, “The Economic Benefit of Postsecondary Degrees: A State and National Level Analysis,” concludes that, despite substantial variations across states and disciplines, “postsecondary-degree attainment clearly results in higher earnings for the vast majority of individuals in all 50 states.” It also found that “almost without exception, each successive level of higher-educational attainment yields additional economic benefits.”

Based on an analysis of census and education statistics, the report says Americans who complete a bachelor’s degree have a median income of $50,360, compared with a median of $29,423 for people with only a high-school diploma. Those with an associate degree earn some $9,000 more than those with only a high-school diploma. Those with a graduate degree have a median income of $68,064, about one-third more than those with a bachelor’s degree.

The report also provides national and state-level data on the wage premiums associated with degree attainment across seven broad discipline categories: arts and humanities; business and communications; education; social and behavioral sciences; the STEM fields (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics); health; and trades.

Its findings mirror those of recent studies by the U.S. Treasury Department  and the U.S. Census Bureau, as well as a series of reports from Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce on topics including the relationship between college major and earnings, college major and unemployment, and occupation and earnings.

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