If you're thinking of dropping out of college because it costs too much, don't.

College pays off. People who don't go to college suffer from a lifetime of lower earnings. They also contribute less to the economy, which lowers everyone's standard of living. (h/t The Atlantic.)

The benefits of a college education have grown. A bachelor's degree is worth $2.8 million over one's lifetime, according to a recent Georgetown University study: far more than the $220,000 price tag of a Harvard degree. College graduates earn 84 percent more over their lifetimes than people without college degrees, according to the Georgetown study.

College graduates are also more likely to have jobs. 4.3 percent of college graduates were unemployed in February: less than half the 9.2 percent unemployment rate for high school graduates who never went to college, according to the Labor Department.

College graduates make more money because they produce more for society, which benefits everyone. Three U.S. economists found in a recent study that the 6.7 million high school and college dropouts who have been unable to work in a permanent job cost the U.S. $4.75 trillion. That is one-third the size of the U.S. economy.

The cost of college is rising, especially as struggling states slash their education budgets. The percentage of Baby Boomers who feel very confident in their ability to pay for the education of their children or grandchildren has plunged 39 percent since 2007 to 24 percent, according to a recent study by Ameriprise Financial. Total U.S. student loan debt now exceeds $1 trillion.

Thankfully, most student loan borrowers are not burdened by an insurmountable amount of debt. The average person who has student loan debt owes $12,800, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. You would only need a salary of $17,676 per year in order to pay that off in ten years, according to the FinAid calculator.

Someone with a college degree is likely making a lot more than that. The average college graduate of the class of 2011 is earning $41,701 per year: 58 percent more than the average median U.S. salary of $26,364.