College Degrees: Still worth it?

By David Seeger, WNWO Today Money Monday financial expert

It has been always remarked or understood that attending college and getting a degree was a guarantee for a ticket for a good job and great career. While that may still be the case for graduates of elite and selective universities, it may not also hold as universally as it once didâ?¦ at least from a financial perspective.

Research has found that there is a correlation between a name-brand type elite colleges, such as Yale, Harvard, Stanford, etc., and higher earning potential--also known as Return on Educational Investment (ROI). But, in reality the actual number of students that attend the top 50 wealthiest and select type colleges in the US are only 4 percent of the number of students that attend college. So, what about the rest?

The unemployment rate for people under the age of 25 is 16 percent, which includes recent college graduates. It seems that it takes longer now for a young college graduate to find a job, and even more difficult to find a job in their discipline or major, that it has in years past. So, this fact alone cuts into the 30 year ROI due to a slower start.

The fact of the matter is that students owe more than $1 trillion dollars in student loan debt, and with being under or unemployed, it creates a lot of strain on the student to pay back said debt. It also has a spillover effect on the housing market as typically, the college grads decide to buy a house after a few years of exiting college, so now their student loan payments are as much as a house payment in many cases. Thus, the dream of home ownership is postponed as well.

Many states are compiling information where students can go and compare colleges and majors on first year income information that has been compiled. States like Arkansas, Colorado, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia feed into this website where the information can be viewed. The website is

A more acceptable way to determine if a college degree is still economically worth it is to examine the average ROI for the college by comparing salaries (projected earnings) from those graduating from that college and the average cost (net cost of those attending) of the college. The website from the Chronicle of Higher Education which displays these stats, and many others, is at Again, this gives easy comparisons between colleges, the average net cost and average long terms salary of the students that have graduatedâ?¦.in essence the average student Return on Investment (ROI). This is a must see to determine economic cost and justification of a college degree. Then, from a financial perspective, you could compare this ROI to that of the S&P index, or putting into the bank, etc., to see if your return is comparable if you would have straight out invested the money in the market as compared to investing in yourself in becoming educated.

Another source where students can go to compare colleges for their graduation rates, average time it took to graduate from a four year program and net costs to attend, can be found at This allows you to pick up to 5 colleges and do a side by side comparison of this data.

As you would expect, colleges do not like to be measured by the earnings of their graduates. They feel it â??obscures the broader benefits of higher education.â?? From an academician myself, I would have to agree with them to a certain degree, as we cannot measure everything in dollars and cents. I have spent a lot of time and money in education for myself and my children and I do not regret a penny of it, but that is just my personal opinion.