Any way you measure it, a college degree is the best investment of your life. In today's dollars, a bachelor's degree is worth more than $2.1 million over 40 years. "Having that post-secondary diploma can make such a difference in lifetime earnings," said Washington, D.C.-based Employment Policy Foundation President Ed Potter.
During a recession, obtaining a college degree becomes even more crucial. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, all seven of the job categories that are predicted to grow faster than average during the next decade require a college diploma. These careers, which include teaching, healthcare and technology, will account for 42 percent of the nation's projected job growth by 2013.
Conversely, men and women without a post-secondary degree are losing ground. The Department of Labor reports that employments for those with bachelor's degrees grew by 1.8 million during the past 10 years compared to a loss of nearly 700,000 jobs for those armed with a high school diploma.
But earnings are only part of the benefits. A college education enriches your life in ways that cannot be measured by dollars. "Education is power," Frederick Douglass observed nearly 150 years ago. Today, education remains the path out of poverty toward opportunity. It is also the route to achievement, enrichment, knowledge and success. Most important of all, education makes dreams come true.
Whether personal or practical, the college experience can be both life affirming and career enhancing. The classroom and the coursework expose you to diverse people and ideas. They open up a world that challenges and stimulates you in ways both big and small. You'll discover new interests or pursue familiar subjects with passion and depth. Business, history, literature, teaching, medicine, technology, the arts -- the list is endless. Along the way, your knowledge base expands, your critical-thinking skills become sharper and your confidence grows.
And once earned, a college degree is forever, as the payoff from higher education can never be erased, broken or laid off. Here are a few examples of that payoff:
Even during a recession, the U.S. Bureau of Labor projects that 23 million jobs will be created in the next decade. Management-related occupations will account for nearly a third of the total, according to the Employment Policy Foundation, a non-profit, non-partisan research and educational foundation focusing on workplace trends and policies.
In addition, a just-completed survey conducted for the Chronicle of Higher Education shows that despite unease with the economy, Americans faith in higher education is unwavering. The nation continues to have confidence in the value of a college degree, with more than half of respondents saying it is "essential for success." Your future depends on it.