Written by David Squires
Megaphone Staff Writer
The importance of higher education is perhaps clear to many of us that attend this outstanding university. A college degree can still be just one more stepping stone in the endless pursuit of a job.
For many, work after college seems great. For the rest of us, however, we still have years and years of toil ahead. With increased competition in the job market (and because it’s almost mandatory to go to college nowadays if you want to live comfortably), many of us need to consider…yeah…that’s right…more school.
With more and more people attending college, Ph.D. and Doctoral programs are almost a must. According to the U.S. Department of Labor and Labor Statistics, of the 2.5 million who graduated from high school between October 2005 and October 2006, 1.6 million (65.8 percent) attended college in October 2006. Among recent high-school graduates enrolled in college, 92.3 percent were full-time students. Of these full-time students, 40.8 percent were in the labor force, either working or looking for work.
In contrast, 81 percent of part-time college students participated in the labor force. More than 60 percent of recent high school graduates who were enrolled in college attended four-year institutions. The labor-force participation rate for these students was 35 percent, and their unemployment rate was 5.5 percent.
In contrast, 58.8 percent of recent high-school graduates enrolled in two-year institutions were in the labor force, and their unemployment rate was 11.5 percent. Recent high school graduates who were not enrolled in college in the fall of 2006 were more likely than enrolled graduates to be in the labor force (76.4 versus 43.9 percent).
The unemployment rate for those not enrolled in college was 25 percent, compared to the 8.5 percent of their counterparts who were enrolled in college (either two- or four-year institutions). Overall, the unemployment rate for high school students (14.5 percent) was higher than for college students (5.7 percent).
Unsurprisingly, unemployment rates for people not in school were lower among those with higher education levels. The unemployment rates for people who had college degrees were 7.6 percent for men and 5 percent for women. In contrast, people without a high-school diploma who were not enrolled in school had unemployment rates of 12.6 percent for men and 25.9 percent for women.
Now some of you may be thinking that four years at SU is all the schoolin’ you may need…THINK AGAIN. A college degree from SU may seem prestigious compared to a high-school diploma or a two-year university nevertheless a four-year degree just isn’t what it used to be. Workers with a master’s, doctoral or professional degree generally have higher incomes than do workers with less education. In 1996, college graduates earned nearly 75 percent more than high school graduates. Median annual earnings for all college graduates were $40,753, compared with $23,317 for all high school graduates. However, a “diploma premium” is attached to each advanced educational level. Employees with bachelor’s degrees earned $36,155, 55 percent more than high-school graduates.
Employees with master’s degrees earned 28 percent more than bachelors’ degree holders and workers with Ph.D.s earned 31 percent more than those with masters’ degrees. Those workers with professional degrees such as medicine or law have the highest median earnings at $71,868, a level 18 percent above the median earnings of workers with Ph.D.s. The additional earnings associated with a professional degree represented nearly a 100-percent increase over the average earnings for those with a bachelor’s degree and a 208-percent premium over the earnings of high school graduates (statistics are at www.bls.gov).
Now, 100 percent is quite a hefty sum when it comes to buying a car, a house and paying off student loans. According to senior psychology major Kevin Toy: “It is mandatory to go to graduate school in this day and age. It’s not like when our parents were in college, if you don’t get another degree after school then you might as well bag my groceries.”
Moreover, with recession (hush hush) looming over the horizon and with household property debt surging, the use of adjustable-rate mortgages increasing and interest rates rising, many of us maybe forced to seek a higher form of education past the collegiate level. So either count up your trust fund or get ready for some more work, because college isn’t even the half of it. But there is hope…maybe you will win the lottery. Or maybe one day a company or fine establishment will pay you an exorbitant amount of money for that oh so prestigious communications degree (no offense) that you toiled so hard for here at Southwestern. But you might have better luck just putting in the time and trudge along to get yourself a Masters, PhD, MD, JD, etc. Hey, you got into Southwestern didn’t you…