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New Report Highlights the Benefits and Value of Higher Education

January 19, 2017

The latest installment of the College Board’s Education Pays series confirms that earning a college degree benefits both graduates and society in numerous and substantial ways.

Education Pays 2016 explores median earnings by education level based on characteristics such as gender, race/ethnicity, occupation, and college major. College graduates continue to have higher median earnings than workers with only a high school degree. The 2015 median earnings of individuals with bachelor’s degrees who worked full time were 67 percent higher than their counterparts with only a high school diploma – and college graduates contributed, on average, 91 percent more a year in taxes.

As a result of their higher earnings, college degree recipients were less likely to be reliant on public assistance programs. About 29 percent of adult high school graduates and 47 percent of those without a high school diploma lived in households that received Medicaid coverage, for instance, compared with only 12 percent of those with at least a four-year college degree.

College-going positively affects volunteering as well. Among adults age 25 and older, 16 percent of those with only a high school diploma volunteered in 2015, compared with 39 percent of individuals with at least a bachelor’s degree. College degree holders were also more likely than others to exercise regularly and were less likely to smoke or engage in other unhealthy lifestyles.

Education Pays 2016 contains many more statistics exemplifying the value of higher education and is available at no cost online.


Lesley McBain
Assistant Director, Research and Policy Analysis