Boston University graduates and other graduates will likely earn significantly more than non-graduates, according to a new study by the College Board.
Sandy Baum, one of the study’s authors, said the report, titled “Education Pays 2013,” discuses both non-monetary and monetary benefits of higher education and shows how the earnings gap between people with degrees and people without degrees has fluctuated over time.
“The factors we looked at were the earnings of people in different years with different levels of education,” Baum said. “What you find is that over time, the earnings gap has increased dramatically, but does not go up every year. Some years it goes down, then it goes back up.”
In 2011, the median income of a graduate with a bachelor’s degree working full time was $56,500, exceeding the median income of a high school graduate by $21,000, according to the study, which was released this week.
The College Board relies on information from the U.S. Census Bureau and U.S. Department of Education, among other sources, Baum said.
“We’re trying to present data in a way that people can understand them,” Baum, a George Washington University Graduate School of Education and Human Development professor, said. “We’re not trying to advocate any particular policy — we just want people to understand what the data say about the benefits of higher education.”
Education Pays is a report released every three years by College Board. This year, the board released an additional publication, titled “How College Shapes Lives,” which sought to analyze college graduate earnings and how they differ, said supplement author Charlie Kurose. “The main idea in ‘How College Shapes Lives’ is the notion that the benefits of higher education vary across different types of individuals,” Kurose, an independent consultant for College Board, said. “When you look at earnings, for example, people with the same level of educational attainment who are different genders, different races, different ages, working in different occupations — they don’t actually earn the same amount.”
The second report is an important expansion on the first that lays out data about complications and nuances involved in a discussion about the benefits of higher education.
“There are a lot of really important discussions going on right now at the national level about the importance of higher education — whether there are too many people going to college, whether there are not enough people going to college,” he said. “It’s very difficult to have a meaningful conversation about that if you don’t really have your facts straight.”
BU spokesman Colin Riley said average income tends to increase with further education.
“One of the big changes over the past four years is that there has been more of a need or a belief that a bachelor’s degree is a job requirement for more and more jobs than there was in the previous generation,” Riley said.
Going to college allows students to explore their interests and skillset and find their niche, Riley said.
“You’re more employable,” he said. “You’re bringing more skills to the table and a higher level of education.”
The value of a college degree cannot only be measured by financial success, Riley said. Other factors also come into play, such as job satisfaction.
“We’re preparing individuals not only for their careers, but for them to be contributing to civic and community life and to be good parents as well,” he said.
School of Management senior Anamika Suneja said a college degree is necessary for high-paying positions.
“I came from a low-income neighborhood,” Suneja said. “At least at my high school, there was never a lot of value on that [earning a degree], but seeing my sister go to college and go on to become a PA and earn six figures motivated me [to go to college].”
Sargent College of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences sophomore Abby Richards said graduates are more qualified for more difficult jobs.
“It [a college degree] is still valuable,” Richards said. “The only reason it [the value] has decreased is because more people are getting college degrees, but it’s still better than not having one.”
Lucy Chao, a School of Hospitality Administration junior, said while the general public may think college degrees have decreased in general, having one is necessitated by the current state of the job market.
“A lot of companies look for certain requirements,” she said. “… If I were to go into an interview and I were to not have a degree, but someone else did, I wouldn’t get that job. There’s so much competition these days.”