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Tuesday, June 27, 2017
Does a College Degree Make You Happier?
According to a recent report by the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), the answer is a resounding "yes". It has long been understood that college graduates go on to have higher incomes than non-degree holders. But EPI's report notes that the pay gap between college graduates and everyone else is wider now than it has been since 1973. Specifically, in 2015, college graduates earned an average of 56% more than people who did not attend or graduate from college.
That may seem obvious. What is less visible are other compelling statistics, such as the college dropout rate, which hovers around a staggering 40%. Finances are one major factor for students leaving college early; they are often then stuck with enormous debt and no marketable degree to justify it.
Income is an obvious advantage for college graduates, but, statistically speaking, they also enjoy a higher quality of life. College graduates are more likely to have a job, be married, own a home, and be a union member. They are more likely to have retirement funds, and have greater geographic mobility.
Experts note that the solution is more complicated than making traditional college accessible. The U.S. has a difficult relationship with so-called vocational schools and apprenticeships-both of which are far more common in other nations. Professions such as x-ray technicians and paralegals don't require a four-year degree, and offer far better compensation the than minimum wage jobs which many high-school graduates are forced to take. This is particularly relevant given that minimum wage workers can no longer afford rent on a one-bedroom apartment anywhere in the country.
With government-backed financial aid on the chopping block, college is likely to become even further out of reach. Of course, it isn't the degree that buys happiness-it's the income that accompanies it. Any viable long-term solution will need to focus on finding ways other than four-year university degrees to boost earning capacity. The economic health of the country now depends upon it.
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