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Undergraduate | Budgeting

8 Undeniably Amazing Facts About the Power of a College Degree

There are a lot of great benefits to attending college—the experience, the social connections, the improved bank of knowledge and jobs skills. But what about more tangible benefits, such as pay and post-graduation satisfaction?

Here are eight awesome statistics that show how powerful a college degree has become.

1. The pay gap is widening

The bottom line is this—those with college degrees versus only a high school diploma simply earn more money. And that pay gap is widening every year. In fact, it's at a record size currently—the Economic Policy Institute estimates that there's now nearly a 60 percent difference in average pay between a high school graduate and a college graduate. A degree is a good investment in your future earnings. 

2. Degrees directly impact unemployment

A degree can help with more than simply your paycheck—it can also help with whether or not you are able to earn one in the first place. Studies have shown that the more education you have, the more likely you are to be employed. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, high school dropouts experience a 7.7 percent rate of unemployment, compared to the 4.8 percent of the general population. Those with bachelor's degrees, however, experience unemployment at a much lower rate of 2.5 percent. 

3. Lifetime earnings matter

When you think about paying for college, you might have dollar signs in your eyes. But the truth is, though college may have some upfront costs (many of which can be taken care of with the right financial aid and scholarships), it has a drastic impact on your lifetime earnings. The U.S. Department of Education estimates that individuals who earn a bachelor's degree will make 84 percent more money in their lifetime than those with only a high school diploma. The long-term effects of your short-term investment last a lifetime!

4. High earners have degrees

Not only do people with college degrees make more money than those who do not, but the highest earners in the United States—those making six figures per year or more—are by and large degree-holders. In this section of the population, 63 percent of these levels of earners have bachelor's degrees or higher, while only five percent have just a high school diploma, according to College Board.

5. Degree-holders have more take-home pay

That same study from College Board found that take-home pay is also markedly higher for those with degrees. Even though higher earnings mean higher taxes on income, the study points out that those with even simply a bachelor's degree take home an average $17,700—or 61 percent—more income after taxes than those with only a high school diploma. 

6. People with degrees are healthier

The benefits of having a college degree go beyond simply salary. Those who attended college are much likelier to be healthier individuals, as well. The College Board study found that 69 percent of bachelor's degree-holders regularly exercise—compared to 45 percent of high school grads. It also found that habits such as smoking are much less common among college graduates—only eight percent regularly smoke, compared to 26 percent of high school grads.

7. Degrees pay off quickly

The effects of earning a degree are evident very quickly after graduating, from income to job satisfaction. In fact, Pew Research Center estimated that as many as three-fourths of millennial college graduates have said they've seen a "major benefit" from being a degree-holder within 10 years or less of graduation. 

8. Degree-holders love their jobs

Speaking of job satisfaction, Pew also found that those with college degrees are significantly more likely to love their jobs, rather than simply seeing it as a way to pay the bills. According to this study, people with just a high school diploma are three times more likely to see their careers simply as "a way to get by," than those with bachelor's degrees.