Opportunity Costs

The opportunity cost of going to college is the money you would have earned if you had worked instead. On the one hand, you could lose four years of salary while getting your degree. On the other hand, you hope to earn more during your career, thanks to your education, to offset the lost wages. The fact is, investing in your own college education will yield much more than Wall Street investments.

  • Higher levels of education lead to higher earnings. Over a working life, the typical full-time, year-round worker with a four-year college degree earns more than 60 percent more than a worker with only a high school diploma.
  • Those with master’s degrees earn almost twice as much per year, and those with professional degrees earn almost three times as much as high school graduates earn over their working lives.
  • Median lifetime earnings for the typical individual with some college but no degree are 19 percent higher than median lifetime earnings for high school graduates with no college experience.
  • The typical college graduate who enrolls at age 18 and graduates in four years earns enough in 11 years to not only compensate for borrowing to pay the full tuition at a public college, but also to make up for wages forgone while in college.
  • College-educated workers are more likely than others to be offered pension plans. Among those who are offered pension plans, college degree-holders are more likely to participate.