A college degree pays off – more than ever before
Earnings gap between college and high school degree largest since 1915
The earnings gap between college and high school graduates has been growing for decades, according to a recent report issued by the U.S. Treasury and Department of Education. “Recent evidence suggests that today’s earnings gap is the highest since 1915, the earliest year for which there are estimates of the college wage gap,” the report states.
In comparing median weekly earnings in 2011 (see accompanying chart), college graduates earned 64 percent more than high school graduates or $1,053 compared to $638. The unemployment rate among college graduates was also much better at 4.9 percent while the rate for those with only a high school diploma was almost double at 9.4 percent.
The differences become even more dramatic at higher levels of education. Those with a master’s degree earned almost double ($1,262) and those with a professional degree more than 2 ½ times ($1,665) what high school graduates earn ($638).
Stark differences also appear in the unemployment rates: 3.6 percent for those with a master’s degree and 2.4 percent for those with a professional degree compared to 9.4 percent for a high school graduate
In a survey of Arizona State University students who received a bachelor’s degree in 2011 across all schools including arts and science, journalism and education, 84.2 percent of those who reported they were seeking a job were either working or had been offered at last one job within 90 days of getting their degree (2012 graduates are currently being surveyed). The majority of those not seeking work were going to graduate school.
Average salaries were substantial and varied according to the graduate’s discipline as well as grade point average (GPA):
- 3.50- 4.00 GPA – $46,625
- 3.00 3.49 GPA – $41,253
- 2:00-2:99 GPA – $40,136
For W. P. Carey School of Business graduates, the median starting salary was $50,000 with a median signing bonus of $5,000. For MBAs, the median starting salary was $90,000 with a median signing bonus of $10,000.
For the Fulton Schools of Engineering, average starting salaries for undergraduate engineering majors ranged from $45,587 for biomedical engineers to $66,924 for computer science graduates.