If one of the world’s most famous college dropouts isn’t skeptical about the value of college, why should anyone be? According to New York Times columnist David Leonhardt, the economy is not a zero-sum game. That is, a well-educated workforce is not one in which college graduates are forced to fight over a fixed number of good jobs; instead, sustained investments in higher education lead to richer, healthier and better functioning societies over time.
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Just how much is college worth? About twice as much as it was in the 1960s, according to the latest Economic Report of the President, a report released annually by The White House. Among the topics examined was the college wage "premium," which serves as an indicator of the economic value of a college degree. This figure is calculated by finding the difference in income between college graduates and those with only high school degrees. The following chart shows the change in the college wage premia for men and women from 1963 to 2013.
Higher education has long been tauted as the key to the middle class, and there is plenty of data to prove it. Researchers at the Brookings Institution have distilled the issue down to three distinct reasons why attending (and graduating from) college has such a strong impact on social mobility.