Upward Bound

In my first post, I discussed some of the return on investment that an individual receives when they complete a Bachelor’s degree versus those individuals that have stopped their education at the point of completing a high school diploma. We saw some quick stats from the Bureau of Labor and Statistics about earning potential based on education level. In this post we are going to take a quick look at how those that have earned a Bachelor’s degree tend to be more employable than those with just a High School diploma. See the image below comparing employment stats of college graduates versus high school graduates. What we find is that both in good times economically and bad times, a college education is worth it.

According to the U.S. Bureau of labor and statistics, the unemployment rate in 2019 for college graduates was 2.2% and in comparison to individuals with only a high school diploma 3.7%. Both figures indicate some of the lowest unemployment figures seen in history. However those with a college education fairing even better as time goes on. In good times and bad times, a college education proves to hold its value. Just as college graduates were able to gain back employment during the 2009 recession, a similar pattern was found during the COVID-19 national and regional shutdowns in 2020 when many individuals lost employment across the nation. According to Pew Research Center, in May of 2020 the unemployment rate shot up to 13.3% and was even at 14.3% for women. However, those with a college education still maintained employment far better than those that did not have a Bachelor’s degree to stand on. “The unemployment rate in May was lowest among workers with a bachelor’s degree or higher education (7.2%), the only group among those examined not to experience an unemployment rate in the double digits” – Pew Research Center. And in a lot of ways maintaining employment during COVID benefited workers based on the type of employment. Many Bachelor’s degree holders were able to maintain employment because they were able to telework.

Never before has going to college and earning a Bachelor’s degree been a better deal. Individuals that earn a Bachelor’s degree are more likely than ever before to find gainful employment, get paid more than their high school diploma peers and keep their employment during economic downturns. And especially in California college is cheaper than ever before thanks to programs like the CA Promise grant, Cal Grant, and the federal Pell grant. If you are a low income or first generation student, programs like these and others at Cal State and University of California campuses can make going to college an extremely cost effective investment. And according to the U.S bureau of labor and statistics, the earning power of a Bachelors degree holder is continually getting stronger. In this first post on this topic we take a look at some stats that show earnings of individuals that hold a Bachelor’s degree vs those that hold a high school diploma. These stats compare the median earnings by weekly earnings in 2018 and annual earnings in 2019. And you can see a pretty significant difference in these metrics. If we were to compare the average earnings of individuals these numbers would be even more drastically different because of the potential of earning a Bachelor’s degree is even greater than what is shown here. But this graphic below gives you a pretty good idea of how most individuals experience this gap in wages. In future posts we will look at how COVID impacted these numbers as well as how unemployment fairs with and without the affects of the pandemic and economic downturns.