For many, the connection between salary and education is inextricable. And the data has historically supported that link: As recently as May 2022, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) has tied higher wages and lower unemployment to higher education.
Dig around on the BLS website, though, and you’ll find another post about fast-growing jobs “that pay well and don’t require a college degree.” And this points to a fact that everyone seems to be dancing around: As with many other public institutions, people seem to be losing confidence in traditional universities and colleges.
Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce underscored this tenuousness with its 2022 report “Ranking 4,500 Colleges by ROI.” The report examined earnings of people who earned a high school diploma as their highest level of education as compared to those who earned college and graduate degrees. The shocking result? This study found that more than half of students at 30% of the study’s postsecondary institutions earned less than high school graduates 10 years after enrollment.
Before you throw in the towel on your postsecondary school dreams, however, Woods offers this insight: “I think that data point is certainly interesting, but the other side of that coin is that people with degrees earn significantly more on average. … You do bump up against some limitations without higher education. You might do well straight out of high school, but you might also hit a ceiling after 10 years.”
Woods is on to something. Remember that BLS report about fast-growing jobs that don’t require a college degree? They are in categories like construction and installation; transportation; and maintenance and repair, where median salaries range from $47,670 to $56,260. These may be higher than the median wage for all occupations ($45,760), but they’re less than the median earnings for those who earn a bachelor’s degree ($65,000) and higher.