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Is college education worth it?
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Over a lifetime, college education makes financial sense

College-educated workers have much higher lifetime earnings than their non-college educated peers.


A college degree will allow workers to charge more for their labour once they graduate. Over a lifetime, this pay gap between college-educated and non-college educated workers more than covers the costs of university.

The Argument

In the United States, the average college-educated worker earns $1,137 a week. The average non-college educated worker earns $678 per week.[1] Over a lifetime, this pay gap means that workers who do not go to university can expect to earn some $1 million less than their college-educated peers. Therefore, attending college makes long-term financial sense.[2]

Counter arguments

It doesn’t make financial sense for everyone. College students who perform in the bottom 25% of their university class actually have average lifetime earnings that are comparable to those that never went to college.[3] Also, many studies that look at average lifetime earnings are unable to exclusively point to a college degree as being the main reason behind those earnings. College graduates are more likely to be from the dominant racial majority, they are more likely to come from families with significant financial resources, and they are more likely to be among the top performers in their high school classes. The increased lifetime earnings could therefore plausibly stem from racist hiring practices, family connections, or natural ability, not their university attendance.[4]



[P1] College graduates earn more than those without higher education over a lifetime. [P2] The earning gap is greater than the cost of college. [P3] Therefore, it makes financial sense to get a college degree.

Rejecting the premises

[Rejecting P1] Not every college graduate earns more than those without a degree. [Rejecting P3] It is impossible to determine whether or not the earning gap was due to their college education.


This page was last edited on Wednesday, 12 Feb 2020 at 17:08 UTC

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