Educational Aspiration Comparing The Value Of A

Educational Aspiration: Comparing The Value Of A High School Education Vs. A College Education. Essay, Research Paper Educational Aspiration: Comparing the value of a high school education vs. a college education.

Educational Aspiration: Comparing The Value Of A High School Education Vs. A College Education. Essay, Research Paper

Educational Aspiration: Comparing the value of a high school education vs. a college education.

In our current economy, the need for a college education becomes increasingly valuable despite the high cost of tuition and loans. The demand for skilled, college-educated laborers is high. A college education can also determine your future income potential and in many cases, it is the only way a person can climb up the socioeconomic ladder. There are two theories that suggests why the need for a college education has been growing — increased international competition and skill-biased technology.

The first theory focuses on the globalization of the U.S. economy. The argument is that increased competition from low skilled labor abroad has decreased the wages of low-skilled workers at home. At first, this theory seems to make sense but the statistics do not make sense. The reason is that only a small portion of the US economy is actually subject to competition from abroad. Also, job competition is growing in both the most and the least trade-affected industries at about the same rate. (Irons, 1998)

The second theory for the increase in need for a college education has been called “skill-biased technological change”. The idea is current technology favors the higher skilled, higher educated workers over lower skilled workers. An example would be the increase use of computer technology has helped in the productivity and wages of the computer users and programmers. But, this increase does not help increase stagnated wages of the “lesser” educated worker who does not know this new technology. The only problem with this theory is that technological growth is a difficult to measure. There are two many hard to define variables to statistically measure this kind of change. (Irons, 1998)

Even if these theories were to be debunked, the idea that a college education is more valuable that a high school education is correct. Statistically, a person with a college education generates a great deal more income in a lifetime than a high school graduate. Likewise, a high school graduate definitely has a higher income than a high-school dropout. The following chart shows a huge numeric difference in economic outcomes as a result of the educational status of the worker. The increase in income between the groups is a direct result of the educational degree attained.

Averages (1992$)

Level Earnings Income Wealth

College 60,231 81,188 353,270

High School 27,225 36,694 136,923

No High School 10,236 20,146 68,275

Total 33,074 45,924 184,308

(Diaz-Geminiz, Quadrini, and Rios-Rull (1997)

In Dimensions of Inequality, Diaz-Geminiz, Quadrini, and Rios-Rull theorizes the financial inequality in the U.S. according to the labor earnings, income, and wealth among U.S. households. Labor earnings are the amount of salary taken home as a result from working. Total income includes labor earning plus any additional income, such as stocks or savings accounts, and even income from government transfers, like Social Security and Welfare. And lastly, wealth represents the total stock of past savings.

According to this theory of financial inequality, the top end of the distribution has seen a growth in their income while those at the lower end have seen their income stagnate. The financial distribution is highly skewed in the U.S. with the top 1% of households owning 30% of the American pie. This is 875 times more wealth that the bottom 40% of the distribution. Increasingly, the only way to obtain a decent piece of the economic pie is by earning a college degree. The higher your college degree, i.e. masters or Ph.D., the higher your potential income earnings. Rather, education is the most important way in which people can make it into the upper end of the income distribution.

Besides the differences in incomes among the college educated and non-college educated, there are also differences in employment opportunities among college educated, high school educated, and high school dropouts. The answer is yes. Your education also holds the key to what kinds of jobs or career you can or cannot obtain. According to the National Center For Education Statistics, “post-secondary degree attainment is associated with better access to employment and higher earnings. In 1995, on average, male bachelor s degree recipients aged 25-34 earned 52 percent more, and female bachelor s degree recipients 91 percent more, than their counterparts with a high school diploma.” On average, a limited education impedes a person s employment opportunities. Rather, how much education one can obtain will affect how broad their job opportunity outlook will be. According to Youth Indicators, “Between 1965 and 1992, the percentage of non-college bound high school graduates entering the labor force changed little. The apparent dip in 1970 was caused by the entry of young men into the military rather than the civilian labor force. In contrast, the proportion of college students who were also in the labor force rose from 28% in 1965 to 49% in 1992.” Therefore, there are more job opportunities among the college educated than high school educated.

Statistically, the value of a college education can be invaluable for one s economic future. With this realization, post-secondary enrollments have increased continuously over the years. “The percentage of high school graduates who enrolled in 2- or 4- year colleges and universities in the October following graduation increased from 49% to 62% between 1972 and 1995. During this same period, the percentage of 25- to 29- year old high school graduates who had completed 4 or more years of college rose from 24% to 28%.” (National Center for Education Statistics)

A college education also has a value beyond monetary terms. A college education can open the doors of opportunities for anyone willing to take advantage of that opportunity. High school cannot offer the same opportunity. A university has far superior resources for its students than high school. A person can learn a lot about life by simply being a college student. Most importantly, beyond attaining a degree, is the knowledge one can earn through attending college. The process of learning is a priceless tool that can only be enhanced by the college experience.

“The simple answer is yes: even the most expensive colleges are a bargain.” (Irons, 1998)


Diaz-Gimenez, J., & Quadrini, V., & Rios-Rull, J.V. (1997, Spring) Dimensions of Inequality: Facts on the U.S. Distributions of Earnings, Income, and Wealth. Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis Quarterly Review, 21(2), pp. 3-21

Hines, John S. (1998, April 01). Education and Income Distribution. New York: General Internet Inc.

National Center For Education Statistics. (1997, July). Findings from The Condition of Education 1997: Postsecondary Persistence and Attainment. New Jersey: Educational Testing Services.