Study Reveals 25% of Higher Education Program Attendees Earn Less than High School Graduates

Credits: CNBC

A recent analysis of earnings data from nearly 4,000 colleges and higher education programs reveals that a significant portion of attendees, approximately one in four, are earning less than the median annual income of $32,000 for high school graduates a decade after enrolling.

The analysis, conducted by The HEA Group using Department of Education data, tracked earnings outcomes for approximately five million students.

About 8% of institutions showed their students’ median income a decade after enrollment to be less than $22,000 per year, which is about 150% of the federal poverty line.

While the majority of colleges still produce graduates who outearn individuals with only high school degrees, the findings reflect growing skepticism among Americans about the value of a college degree, especially given the soaring costs of higher education.

College Graduates (Credits: Brookings Institution)

The average student debt currently exceeds $37,000 per borrower. Many Americans are questioning whether a college degree justifies taking on such substantial student debt.

The HEA Group’s analysis raises questions about whether colleges are providing sufficient value to enable students to earn a decent living and pay down their student loans after graduation.

The economic research consistently demonstrates a wage premium for college graduates, but concerns about student debt and uncertain job prospects may be contributing to a more skeptical view of the value of higher education.

According to a poll conducted last year by the Wall Street Journal and NORC at the University of Chicago, 56% of Americans believe that earning a four-year college degree is not worth the cost, compared to 40% a decade ago.

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