THE BLOG

The Actual Value of a Diploma

01/09/2013 06:46 pm ET | Updated Mar 11, 2013

When we think about higher education, we often times first think about the rising costs of college and the student loan debt incurred thereafter. But the reality is that the actual value of a diploma far exceeds the amount we pay for it.

The most obvious benefit of a college education is the higher paying job we are more likely to obtain. In fact, college graduates earn about $20,000 more per year than those with only high school diplomas. At this rate, a college graduate will earn $650,000 more in a lifetime than a high school graduate.

And of course these differentiating numbers only grow with the levels of degrees obtained. According to a recently published report by the Georgetown University Center for Education and the Workforce, "those with master's, doctoral, and professional degrees earn $2.67 million, $3.25 million, and $3.65 million, respectively." Furthermore, the type of degree earned also accounts for the level of income. Graduates who studied in the fields of management or science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) earn more, on average, than people with advanced degrees of any level who work in fields like education, sales, and community service.

However, the benefits do not stop at the bank account. U.S. New & World Report published research showing that, overall, college graduates are happier, healthier and live longer. One reason for this may be that these people have better compensation packages, which include health care. College graduates are also more active in the community and contribute more to society. As a whole, they have more concern for the "greater good" and are more able to "do their part." And this sense of pride and accountability is also shown to be carried down to children; graduates raise kids who are better prepared academically, studies show.

But that's still not all: It has also been shown that college graduates have an easier time finding and keeping jobs; unemployment rates were only 2.2 percent last year, half the number for those with high school diplomas.

With these facts at hand, it's easy to see why continuing education after high school is so worthwhile. Most people only first think about how much money they can make or what kind of job they can get. But when you consider the bigger picture, going to college seems like a no brainer.

But for many people, it's not so simple. The costs of college are becoming unbearable and leave few options to fund college for people with economic hardship.

For example, lower-income Americans, who actually have the most to gain by breaking out of class stereotypes via receiving a college degree or higher, actually have a harder time obtaining one because their families are less economically prepared. This is especially true for minorities and inner city families. That being said, more needs to be done in order to help the under-privileged achieve higher education and to, ultimately, break economic barriers. It's exactly for reasons such as this that we here at GradSave have a vision "to make education attainable or all." We understand how hard it is to pay for college but, at the some time, how important it is to go. This is why the crowdfunding platform we use for college savings is so important and really makes a huge difference at the end of the day.

So, it seems as though many people are caught in a catch-22: the fringe benefits of going to college far exceed the amount of the actual degree, but, with tuition costs soaring, going to college is becoming financially impossible. The best thing we can do as a community is to encourage our loved ones to start savings as early as possible in order to make the most of savings and to make college education a reality, not a dream.