Wednesday, September 8, 2010

The Value of a Bachelor's Degree

Every year, thousands of people earn a bachelor's degree from Oregon's public and private colleges. Two benefits that most - but not all - of these individuals will realize are a lower unemployment rate and higher median earnings than job seekers without college degrees.

Nationally, those with bachelor's degrees fared better in the economic downturn, with an average unemployment rate of 5.5 percent in 2009, compared with all persons at 9.3 percent.
Bachelor's degree holders also earned $994 per week, versus $602 per week for high school graduates.

In 2008, 82 percent of Oregon's employment in occupations requiring a bachelor's degree as a minimum requirement paid more than $50,000 a year. By comparison, 72 percent of workers in occupations requiring a minimum of an associate degree paid more than $50,000 annually, and only 8 percent of Oregon employment in occupations that required no postsecondary education hit the high-wage mark.

The benefits of lower unemployment and higher wages associated with a bachelor's degree come at a cost to the degree-earner. Between the 1995-1996 and 2006-2007 academic years, the Oregon University System's public universities raised average tuition and fees from $3,105 to $5,471 (76%).

In addition to the cost of tuition, fees, and room and board, most students attending four-year colleges forego the income of a full-time job. A majority of students also acquire loan debt to finance their education, and student loan repayments generally last anywhere from 10 to 30 years after receiving the degree. In Oregon, 61 percent of students graduating from public and private four-year institutions in 2008 acquired student debt; the average amount totaled $21,029.

Read more about Oregon's bachelor's degree earners in the full article, co-authored by Occupational Economist Brenda Turner (503-947-1233), and me, Gail (503-947-1274).

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