College is costly. But not going is even more costly.
Median annual earnings among college-educated full-time workers aged 25-32 rose by nearly $7,000–to $45,500, in 2012 dollars–between 1965 and 2013. Meanwhile, their high-school-educated peers lost more than $3,000, with earnings falling to $28,000 over that time period.
The findings are based on a Pew survey of 2,002 adults and an analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data.
Young adults with college degrees also have a greater sense that they’re on a clear career path, with 86% saying their job is a career, or at least a steppingstone to a career. Just 57% of high school graduates feel the same way.
Though the up-front cost of college is high, and climbing higher, the Pew report found that Millennials overwhelmingly feel their college education has already paid off. Eighty-six percent of those with loans say the degree has been worth it, or will be soon.
The earnings divide between college graduates and high school graduates has been a topic of conversation for years, but the Pew report reinforces the fact that the gap is particularly wide in the Millennial generation. In 1979, high school graduates of the Baby Boomer generation earned about three-quarters of what their college-educated peers did. Today, they bring in just 62 cents on the dollar.