It’s not just what you know. It’s who you know.
What is the value of a college education? Some calculate a value based on its cost which is growing faster than inflation and median income. New York Fed researchers estimate college graduates earn about $1 million more over their lifetime than those without a degree. And the so-called college wage “premium” — the difference in average earnings between college graduates and those with just a high school diploma — has averaged about 56 percent over the last three decades.
While there’s plenty of evidence that a higher education provides a gateway to higher-paying jobs, the return on a college degree can vary widely, depending on a range of factors. Only 36.5 percent of students at public, four-year universities have obtained a degree after five years—close to the lowest level in three decades. And what if you don’t graduate? The longer it takes to complete a degree, the larger the cost—both in terms of outlays and opportunities. Those who don’t finish don’t enjoy the same wage premium that those with degrees do. In fact, those with some college credits don’t fare much better than those with just a high school diploma, according to the U.S. Department of Education. Add on student loan debt, and it probably doesn’t pencil.
For young college graduates, defined as those between 21 and 24 years old, the unemployment rate is above 7 percent and the rate of underemployment — meaning college graduates who are working in low-paying, low-skilled or part-time jobs — stands at nearly 15 percent, according to the Economic Policy Institute (EPI). While the labor market has been challenging for those with a degree, it’s been even more challenging for those without a degree.
Young high school graduates face an unemployment rate of 19.5 percent and underemployment rate of 37 percent, according to EPI researchers. That explains why the wage premium has remained relatively level, despite the recession. It’s not that college graduates’ wages are growing (they’re not); it’s that everyone’s wages are going down. That also means the opportunity cost of going to school instead of working has gone down too.
Here’s my strategy for success for adults returning to high school.
- Get your diploma at Horizonte Alternative High School.
- Apply and qualify for a Horizonte Applied Tech Scholarship.
- Pursue and achieve an applied tech certificate.
- While doing so seek internship opportunities from desired employers.
- Leverage internship into great employer introductions and impressions.
- Work for desired employer.
- Transfer professional certificate credits toward Salt Lake Community College associate degree.
- Achieve associate degree.
- Pursue bachelor and/or advanced educational degree(s).
This approach maximizes financial assistance, minimizes time in school before earning higher wages in the chosen profession, provides opportunity to make friends and influence people for maximum career earnings and satisfaction.