If you sat out from college because of the pandemic or are planning to, experts argue that you should reconsider. Here are three key reasons why.
You’ll earn more with a degree So what if you delay or never go to college? Opportunity costs, mostly.
Getting a degree could mean earning nearly a million dollars more over your lifetime, according to data from the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce. Delaying enrollment for one year can cost a year’s worth of wages over your lifetime, which you never recoup, according to a July 2020 report from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. Earnings, no matter the education level, will vary by occupation, region, gender and race. But bachelor’s degree holders still earn, on average, 31% more in their lifetimes than associate degree holders and 84% more than those with only a high school diploma. That’s not to say you can’t consider education alternatives – short-term credential and trade programs, apprenticeships and associate degrees are all viable options. Statistically, though, a four- year degree or higher is a stronger insurance for greater earnings over your lifetime. For low-income students and students of color who statistically have less generational wealth, degrees are also the best vehicle for upward mobility, says Michelle Dimino, education senior policy advisor at Third Way, a public policy think tank. A recent Third Way study found that most bachelor’s degree programs net low-income students high enough wages to justify out-of-pocket costs. “What we’re seeing is students who would most benefit from the socioeconomic benefits a college degree can provide are the least likely to be enrolling at this point in time,” Dimino says. “The biggest concern that we have for those students delaying enrollment is it might lead to permanently forgoing college.” The longer the pause, the harder it is to finish a degree According to federal data, there are millions of adult learners who don’t start college until they’re well into their 20s or older. But you’re less likely to complete a degree if you delay: Nearly half of those who delayed enrollment left college without earning a degree, compared with 27% of those who didn’t delay, according to a 2005 report from the National Center for Education Statistics. The further you get from high school, the less academic support and one-on-one encouragement you have to attend college, experts say. It’s also more likely you’ll get a job, start a family and have other income demands. “There’s something about that window of 18 to 24; if you start out at that point, you’re likely to get to where you need to be,” Smith says.
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