A new report by Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce finds that workers with less education can earn the same as or more than workers with more education, and that a college graduate’s return on their educational investment varies widely by major and institution.
The report, “Buyer Beware: First-Year Earnings and Debt for 37,000 College Majors at 4,400 Institutions,” found that while 22% of workers who earn $30,000 to $60,000 a year have a bachelor’s degree, 27% have only a high school diploma.
The report found that 44% of bachelor’s degree programs studied lead to first-year earnings of $48,000 to $96,000 per year, but so do 10% of associate degree programs.
First -year earnings for graduates holding the same degree in the same major can vary significantly depending on the colleges or universities attended, the report said.
For example, nursing graduates with associate degrees from Raritan Valley Community College in New Jersey earn a median $61,200 a year – more than twice as much as graduates with the same degree from East Los Angeles College ($26,600), the report said.
Business Administration, a popular bachelor’s degree major, has median first-year earnings that range from less than $20,000 a year to more than $100,000, the report said. For master’s degrees, there can be an even wider spreads in median first-year earnings.
The report also finds that higher levels of education do not always result in higher federal student loan debt payments. Associate degree programs are generally more affordable than bachelor’s and master’s degree programs, but graduates of some associate degree programs end up with higher monthly student loan payments than graduates with bachelor’s or master’s degrees, the report said.
Overall, 309 bachelor’s degree programs lead to higher monthly federal student loan payments than the median for master’s degree programs, and 922 associate’s degree programs lead to higher monthly federal student loan payments than the median for bachelor’s degree programs, the report said.
This online report lists the exact amount of earnings, expected federal loan debt, and earnings net of federal loan debt per month for each of the 4,400 institutions. To explore the ROI for the various institutions, go here.