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Is College Worth the Cost?

May 29, 2024

More than a quarter (29%) of U.S. adults said college is not worth the cost at all, according to a new Pew Research Center survey. Less than a quarter (22%) of U.S. adults said the cost of college is worth it even if someone must take out loans, and about half (47%) said the cost is worth it only if someone doesn’t have to take out loans,

Amid rising tuition costs and mounting student loan debt for college degree seekers, young U.S. workers (ages 25 to 34) without a bachelor’s degree have seen their earnings grow during the past decade. Additionally, young workers without a bachelor’s degree have experienced an overall increase in wealth, and fewer are living in poverty today.

In turn, only 25% of U.S. adults said it’s extremely or very important to have a four-year college degree to land a well-paying job in today’s market. Conversely, 40% said a college degree is not too important or not at all important.

About half (49%) said it’s less important to have a four-year college degree today in order to get a well-paying job than it was 20 years ago. About one-third (32%) said it’s more important.

On the other hand, young college graduates have also experienced improvements during this time. As a result, Pew said the gap in earnings between young adults with and without a college degree has not narrowed.

Still, only about a third (32%) of four-year college graduates said college is worth the cost even if someone must take out loans. Four-year college graduates (58%) are much more likely than those without a college degree (26%) to say their education was extremely or very useful in giving them the skills and knowledge they needed to find a well-paying job.

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