Investing in Education and Training is Still a Great Deal

A lifetime of big returns.

With the burgeoning costs of education, many students and families are wondering whether this investment will pay off in the long run and just how much of a return they will see.

According the data collected by the Idaho Department of Labor and the National Center for Education Statistics, investing in education still just might be the best deal on the block, and it may be a necessity for Idahoans who want to acquire wealth to improve their quality of life.

While the costs of a college education will often burden both students and their families with hefty student loans, over a lifetime the investment in a college education can return millions of dollars to their bank accounts.  Bachelor’s degrees can cost on average $127,000 if you include tuition, living expenses and interest on student loans. A Ph.D will cost around $307,000 on average. Sometimes these heavy price tags cause many to delay their education or simply avoid college altogether.

But the statistics also show that on average, workers with bachelor’s degrees who gain jobs in fields that require bachelor’s degrees will make an additional $1.1 million in their lifetimes for their $127,000 investment. For occupations requiring a Ph.D, workers will earn an additional $2.7 million over a lifetime from their $307,000 investment. In today’s competitive labor market an education is vital when competing for a job, acquiring wealth and improving the economic well-being of Idahoans.
college education

The first step in your college education may be the most important to garnering your biggest return.

The first two years in college may actually bear the biggest returns on your college investment.  For example, the estimated $32,000 to $43,000 for tuition, living expenses and interest on loans for a post-secondary vocational certificate or associate degree will return on average $620,000 dollars over a lifetime, a whopping 12-to-1 return on investment.  Not many investing opportunities exist today that will elicit a return at that rate.

That high return on the first two years out of high school really highlights the importance of taking that first step toward a college education.  And should you want to go beyond an associate degree to a Ph.D, you could earn nine-to-one on your investment, or an additional $2.3 million over a lifetime.  So even as the cost of college tuition has outpaced wages over the past couple decades – tuition rising  5 percent to 6 percent a year with wages rise at only 2.5 percent per year – the return on investment is still a tremendous deal.

Education puts the graduate on a path toward a higher quality of life than those who choose not to make the investment.  And according to the studies outlined above,  the first step toward an associate degree may be the most important and with the most lucrative returns.

College graduates are much more likely to be employed,  not unemployed.

The more education you have, the more likely you are to have a higher standard of living and the less likely to be unemployed.  Unemployment claimant records in Idaho indicate the unemployment rates for those with only a high school education or less are twice as high as those with a  bachelor’s or associate degree and five times higher than those who have graduate degrees.

All careers are NOT created equal. Research your career path using Idaho’s Career Information System.

Because the price tag of a college education can hamstring an individual with student debt, it is important to research the school you attend, the course of study you wish to pursue and the occupations available for those credentials. No investments are risk free, not even an education. While return on investment figures above are averages across educational paths, all careers are not created equal. Some return well above the averages and some well below.

Idaho’s Career Information System is a fantastic place to conduct this research. People who use the system find a cornucopia of career information and data that guides them into careers that are more likely to be in demand and generate a better return on your educational investment.  For example, you can explore Idaho’s hot jobs, those that are the fastest growing, highest paying and most abundant. Careers in those occupations will certainly lead to the most success and provide a significant return on your educational investment.

Careers in health care, high technology, accounting, finance and education, to mention a few, are perennial front-runners on those lists.  Use the tools provided in the Career Information System to research colleges, fields of study and occupations to ensure the high-cost investment in education will ultimately result in a lucrative return-on-investment and a higher standard of living.

Education may still be the best deal in town.

— Bob Uhlenkott chief research officer
Bob.Uhlenkott@labor.idaho.gov