A new report issued by the Council on Postsecondary Education shows that college still pays for those who earn postsecondary credentials, and that state allocations for public higher education more than pay for themselves.
Higher Education’s Return on Investment report examines the return on investment for both the individual student and the state as a whole. Using the Kentucky high school Class of 2010 cohort of 42,856 students, the report follows them for eight years from their entry into college or the workforce in 2010 to 2018.
“Education has the power to transform lives and our economy,” said Gov. Andy Beshear. “To build that bigger, brighter commonwealth we will embrace higher education, which provides Kentuckians the opportunity to improve their life, lift up their family and positively transform everything for the generations to come.”
CPE President Aaron Thompson added, “This report should dispel any myths about the value of a college credential. The bottom line is college is still worth the cost and is the single best investment that most Kentuckians will ever make.”
College graduates from the high school Class of 2010 realized a return on their investment even a few years after graduation. By 2018, bachelor’s degree graduates were making $12,000 more annually than high school graduates, even after taking opportunity cost (lost earning potential while in college) into account.
These earning differences grow even more pronounced over time, as degree holders are more likely to earn promotions to managerial or leadership positions within their organizations.
Over a lifetime, a bachelor’s degree graduate earns $1.2 million more than a high school graduate, or 26 times the initial investment, while associate degree graduates earn $422,000 more.
The state's return on investment for college-goers in the high school Class of 2010 is even greater at 68 times the initial investment, according to census data and Brookings Institution projections.
The state's total investment for public college-goers in the cohort was $630 million through direct appropriations to public colleges and universities and through state financial aid programs. In return, these students will contribute $42.8 billion to the economy over a working lifetime through taxes and spending.
“These findings are clear. There is no better investment in Kentucky’s workforce and economy than higher education,” added Thompson.
The report noted that college graduates are much less likely to be unemployed or participate in entitlement programs, resulting in additional savings. Although difficult to quantify, college-educated residents save the state money through decreased reliance on social welfare programs and unemployment insurance.
In 2017, 85% of the individuals who were unemployed or out of the labor force did not have a college credential. People without a college credential accounted for 88% of SNAP recipients, 86% of Medicaid recipients and 94% of SSI (disability) recipients.
Other key takeaways of the report include data on the true cost and value of college.
The total out-of-pocket (net) cost of a public postsecondary credential is significantly lower than the published (sticker) price. On average, students from the high school Class of 2010 paid a total of $15,394 for a certificate or diploma, $30,859 for an associate degree and $55,418 for a bachelor's degree. The published cost of attendance (tuition, fees, room and board, books and travel expenses) is $21,039, $44,881 and $79,217 respectively.
About a third of the total cost of public postsecondary credentials is covered by grants and scholarships. State and federal grants and scholarships, which do not need to be paid back, subsidized 27%-31% of the total cost of a credential. Nearly all degree graduates in the cohort (98%) received some amount of financial aid.
Tuition and fee increases at Kentucky's public institutions are at their lowest growth rate in 15 years. Tuition and fees rose 2.2% in the current academic year, about the same as inflation.
A substantial number of students do not borrow loans to finance their education. About 41% of the cohort who attended an in-state public postsecondary institution accrued zero loan debt during the course of their studies.
The median student loan debt is comparable to an auto loan, except a credential, unlike a car, appreciates in value. The median loan amount (principle and interest) was $9,787 for a certificate/ diploma, $15,472 for an associate degree and $32,855 for a bachelor's degree.
To learn more and to access the report, visit http://cpe.ky.gov/kyhigheredmatters/.