Advocacy and State Relations, The California State University

College Degree Worth Its Weight in Gold

It is becoming apparent on both the state and national level that the economic benefit to holding a college degree continues to grow. According to several recent reports there is a clear correlation between a person’s educational attainment and his or her earning power in the job market.

According to a recent report put out by the State Higher Education Executive Officers Association’s (SHEEO) State Policy Resource Center:

  • Individuals who obtain a bachelor’s degree have a median income of $50,360 as compared to $29,443 for those who only have a high school diploma.
  • College-educated workers were less likely to be unemployed during bad economic times.  Workers with no postsecondary education had a 17% higher unemployment rate.
  • Four out of every five jobs lost during the recent recession were held by workers with no postsecondary education.

In addition, the US Census Bureau shows that in the late 1970’s college degree holders earned 55 percent more than those without and that gap has now grown to 85 percent. According to SHEEO, “The more deeply and completely one examines the evidence, the more compelling the conclusion – higher education is a great investment for both the student and society as a whole, no matter where you live, no matter what you study.”

Chart 3 — Relationship between Income and Growth in Degrees Produced by Discipline
(Size of bubble reflects the percent growth in degrees over the five years prior to 2009-10)

Relationship between income and growth in degrees produced by discipline

Source: U.S. Census Bureau, 2006-10 American Community Survey Five-Year Public Use Microdata Sample & IPEDS Completion Survey Data Downloaded from IPEDS Data Center

Note: This chart reflects the five year growth in completions in each category as it relates to median income

As the nation’s largest public university system, the CSU produces nearly 100,000 graduates each year and is the dominant post-secondary institution providing graduates each year in California. The CSU works hand in hand with policymakers, industry and our education partners to ensure that doors remain open and ready to provide opportunities for all individuals seeking a postsecondary degree.

Another study, The College Advantage: Weathering the Economic Storm shows that workers without a college degree have been significantly worse off in the recent economic downturn than those who have attended college.

According to the study, “College-educated workers have more than survived the Great Recession, they have led the recovery. The most striking statistic shows that nearly 200,000 jobs for workers with at least a bachelor’s degree were added during the recession, and 2 million more jobs for college-educated workers have been added during the recovery.”

The more educated have fared better in the recession and recovery, within every industry

The more educated fare better in the recession and recovery, within every industry

Source: The College Advantage: Weathering the Economic Storm, Georgetown University Public Policy Institute, Center on Education and the Workforce. Author’s estimate of the Current Population Survey data (2007-2012). Employment includes all workers aged 18 and older. The percentage change is a share of total employment in December 2007. A negative sign indicates a negative change (job losses).

As more and more industries demand individuals come prepared with a higher education degree, the CSU is rising up to meet this demand. The economic impact of the California State University is unparalleled with the CSU graduating nearly 100,000 graduate into key industries each year. The CSU provides jobs, prepares the future workforce, and creates innovative products and services for the state that will build and sustain its economy.

The recent recession shows an increase in individuals returning for postsecondary education in order to remain as viable candidates in high demand industries that have better weathered the economic downturn.

CSU has seen substantial increases in enrollment demand even in spite of continued state funding cuts in the past several years. Applications for the fall 2013 semester showed an increase of seven percent over last year with over 300,000 individuals applying to one of the 23 CSU campuses.

In every industry, California thrives on a workforce based in a range of backgrounds and perspectives. To that end, the CSU has a long tradition of providing access to higher education to Californians from different ethnic, socioeconomic, and educational backgrounds, making it the most diverse university system in the country.

In conclusion, SHEEO states, “Expanding higher education degree attainment is clearly an essential and powerful strategy for economic development in a state. The mixture of degrees produced is influenced by student choice and the programmatic offerings of institutions; both should be informed by the demand for educated people in different fields and by the value they add to the economy.”

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