Adult Learner

Is a college education worth it? Weighing the options for adult learners

Bachelor’s-qualified job candidates are in short supply in America. In fact, only about one-third of adults over the age of 25 have earned a bachelor’s degree or higher, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Many adults considering a degree are students who started college years prior, but had to take a break when varying life commitments got in the way. If you’ve already achieved some professional success without a bachelor’s degree, it can be challenging to determine whether finishing what you started in the classroom would be worth the time and money.

To put it bluntly: is a college education worth it?

You may be surprised to learn just how far-reaching an undergraduate education’s impacts are. Obtaining a bachelor’s degree can benefit everything from your earning potential to your personal health. Read on to learn more about how a degree can affect your life.

Is a college degree worth it?

A Gallup and Purdue University survey polling nearly 30,000 college alumni concluded the vast majority of college graduates think their education was worth the cost. In fact, only four percent strongly disagreed. A larger percentage of those students were for-profit school graduates and those with $50,000 or more in student loans.

Join us as we dig into even more information on college outcomes to explore the different elements that influence the true value of a degree.

Higher education’s impact on employment and earnings

According to College Board’s 2016 higher education trends report, U.S. adults with a high school diploma experience an unemployment rate that is nearly double that of bachelor’s degree-holders.

Consider the following figures as they relate to the employment rates of adults age 25 to 64:

To further illustrate the difference in opportunity for those with varying levels of education, we used real-time job analysis software from to examine more than 12 million job postings from the last year. Our findings revealed job candidates whose highest educational attainment was a bachelor’s degree qualified for approximately 41.6 percent more jobs than those with just a high school diploma.*

Not only are adults with bachelor’s degrees more likely to find work, they’re also more likely to make a sustainable living. According to the College Board report, a college-educated individual’s median annual earnings were approximately 67 percent higher than those of a high school graduate. Just four percent of bachelor’s degree holders lived in poverty in 2015, versus 13 percent of high school graduates.

College graduates are also statistically more likely to climb the socioeconomic ladder. That means young adults who’ve earned a degree are significantly more likely to be near the upper end of the income distribution than those from similar backgrounds who only earned a high school diploma.

Higher education’s impact on the economy

Higher levels of education can also impact the economy at large. The College Board report explains that when an economy is more productive—when educated workers are earning more money—a higher standard of living is generated for all. This is largely due to the fact that a more educated workforce translates to higher tax payments at the local, state and federal levels.

And the community-wide impact of a college education expands even further. Adults age 25 to 44 with at least a bachelor’s degree consistently vote at a rate more than twice that of those with just a high school diploma. And, among adults 25 and older, 39 percent of those with a college education report volunteering in their communities (compared to just 16 percent of high school graduates).

Higher education’s impact on health

Let’s say you don’t find yourself all that motivated by employment opportunities, salary potential or community impact. One of the more surprising benefits of earning a higher education may hit home in a way that’s hard to ignore: improved health.

In general, highly educated adults in the U.S. have lower yearly mortality rates in every age, gender and racial or ethnic subgroup of the population than those who have obtained less formal education. Each increase in educational attainment corresponds with a progressively lower mortality rate.

In fact, the College Board report cites numerous studies supporting the finding that “the skills, attitudes and thought patterns fostered by education lead to more responsible health-related behaviors.”

Consider the following:

  • 62 percent of adults with at least a bachelor’s degree report meeting the federal guidelines for physical activity of at least 2.5 hours per week of moderate or 1.25 hours per week of intensive aerobic activity. That compares to just 40 percent of high school graduates.
  • Obesity rates are also much higher for children whose parents have obtained lower levels of education.
  • Only 6.9 percent of adults with more than a high school education have been diagnosed with diabetes compared to 9.1 percent of high school graduates
  • Adults age 45 to 64 without a college degree are at a 70 percent higher risk of experiencing a heart attack compared with those who earned a college degree.

Is it time to finish your degree?

As you consider the numerous benefits of completing your bachelor’s degree, ask yourself, “Is college education worth it?” You may find yourself inching closer and closer to giving higher education another shot. But deciding to make the commitment is just the first step on your journey.

While there are many decisions you’ll have to make, which college to attend might be the most impactful. As you research, you may find the flexible learning options, real-world curriculum and student-centric philosophy of University of Massachusetts Global make your decision a little bit easier. Learn more about how we’re built for students just like you.



* (analysis of 12,104,702 job postings, Oct. 01, 2017 – Sep. 30, 2018)

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