Pass or fail?
Since taking office, President Biden has canceled $9.5 billion in federal student loan debt. But that amount is only a fraction of the staggering $1.7 trillion from federal loans that student borrowers owe. With widespread student loan forgiveness still far from reality, is earning a college degree even worth it? To answer that question, a new study measured the return on investment (ROI) offered by 38,000 postsecondary education programs, based on how long it takes students to recoup the costs of their credentials. Here’s how different degrees stacked up:
- Bachelor’s degree: Almost two-thirds (65%) of programs enabled their graduates to recover their costs in 10 years or less.
- Associate’s degree: Nearly six out of ten (58%) students were able to earn back their costs within just five years, higher than any other type of program.
- Certificate: About 48% of graduates were able to recoup their costs within five years, but their earning potential varied significantly by program.
The report also found that certain fields of study — like nursing, engineering, and dental support services — were more likely to lead to a higher ROI than others, like the arts, biology, and religion. No matter what area of study, for-profit colleges were the least likely to offer a good return on investment to their graduates. In fact, two-fifths of people who complete for-profit programs may end up economically worse off by attending.
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