Degrees do pay off, and this state university system is proof

The collective ROI for 70,000 students is $60 billion more than if they had settled solely for high school diplomas.

Indeed, as a new website proclaims, Georgia Degrees Pay.

For students and families interested in attending the University of Georgia system but are concerned about value, they can simply click on that link and get a clear, fact-filled breakdown of the earnings potential of graduates.

The site, along with a report from Selig Center for Economic Growth at the University of Georgia piggybacks on another critical national study done last year by Georgetown University’s Center for Education and the Workforce, that shows return on investment is better when students pursue a postsecondary education path than when they don’t.

The proof is in the stepladder of numbers released by the Selig Center between levels of attainment and the potential improvements in payouts over their careers:

  • $2,037,500 more for a doctorate
  • 1,399,500 more for a master’s degree
  • $1,152,500 more for a bachelor’s degree
  • $377,000 more for an associate degree
  • $238,455 more for a certificate

“The difference higher education makes on a person’s life is dramatic,” Chancellor Sonny Perdue said. “Whether you are a high school graduate trying to decide between going to college or entering the workforce, or you are a mid-career adult wanting to improve your earning potential by completing your degree or adding to your education, this study clearly demonstrates a college degree in Georgia is a worthwhile investment.”

Jeff Humphrey, lead author on the study and director of the Selig Center in the Terry College of Business, and his team helped compile and scour the massive collection of data from more than 70,000 graduates from the 2021 Class. Collectively, their earnings toppled $179 billion, or $60 billion more than if they had settled on high school diplomas and entered the workforce.

In addition, they also didn’t overburden themselves with outrageous tuition and fee costs–a factor prominently mentioned by President Joe Biden recently in his proposed cancellation of billions in student loan debt for weary borrowers. Nearly all of Georgia’s state institutions have kept tuition level in five of the past seven years, while accelerating online offerings to more than 14,000, helping save students nearly $50 million.

More from UB: The 50 institutions that offer the best starting salaries for 4-year degree holders

The site itself is easy to navigate, with three big buttons that families can click on: Cost of Attendance, Future Earnings and Student Success. There is also a quick map to hover over showing the names and locations of all of its institutions, as well as links to their individual sites.

Perhaps the best features for parents and students are its comparison tools, where they can punch in universities of their choice and get breakdowns of academics, degrees and earnings by institution. Within each major, students can see the potential value after one year, five years and 10 years. While every student’s experience is different, those who attend Georgia State, for example, can expect to earn a robust $90,000 in mid careers.

One drawback for students in Georgia noted by researchers is that earnings potential do fall short of national numbers in several areas, including graduate studies. However, the difference between those who earn degrees and those with diplomas is one of the highest in the nation.

“Stepping up from a high school diploma to a bachelor’s degree yields a larger percentage increase in work-life earnings in Georgia than in the U.S. as a whole,” study authors say. “The economic worth of a college education over the course of a graduate’s working life is considerable. Postsecondary education pays off for USG graduates.”

Chris Burt
Chris Burt
Chris is a reporter and associate editor for University Business and District Administration magazines, covering the entirety of higher education and K-12 schools. Prior to coming to LRP, Chris had a distinguished career as a multifaceted editor, designer and reporter for some of the top newspapers and media outlets in the country, including the Palm Beach Post, Sun-Sentinel, Albany Times-Union and The Boston Globe. He is a graduate of Northeastern University.

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