What is a college degree worth today?


Rick Kurtz

A college education is an investment. One of time and money.

Students, parents, and legislators want to know that their investment will pay off in the end — in the form of a job, higher earning potential, a more satisfied life, or a healthier economy. As a college president, I’m happy to say that the return on investment is all of those things, today more than ever.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics show that college graduates earn about two-thirds more than those with a high school degree alone. That equates to about $1 million more in lifetime wages. Not only are earnings higher, but unemployment is lower for college graduates.

The benefit doesn’t stop at the individual level, though. Having more college graduates helps to fuel 21st century jobs. In Ohio, legislators, universities and business leaders have been working together to increase degree attainment to meet changing workforce demands and support economic development.

The job market is changing more rapidly than at any other time in our history, with huge shifts in the number of jobs that require a college degree.

It is now estimated that the typical college graduate will change careers five times — and change jobs within those careers as many as 16 times — over the course of their lives. Today’s college degree provides graduates with the foundation from which to continually grow and learn to keep up with the speed of technology, new jobs that didn’t exist even two years ago, and fast-paced changes occurring in every industry. Employers are looking for people who know how to learn, explore, problem-solve, communicate, think, plan and act. They want employees who have a thirst for knowledge. Those who use the growing number of tools available to them to research and make data-driven decisions.

That’s the real value of a college degree today.

Tomorrow, I have the pleasure of addressing nearly 200 new Shawnee State University graduates during our fall commencement. While they learned a great deal over the past two, four, or more years at Shawnee State University, the greatest is how to succeed in tomorrow’s world — how to change and adapt with the world around them and how to use their knowledge to make an impact on it. I’m excited for them and can’t wait to see how they use their Shawnee State University degrees to make a difference in communities throughout Ohio and beyond.

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