Thoughts on Education

Since it’s been a while since I’ve written an article solely for RnL, and since school is back in session (yours truly just completed a term where he had a 3.33 GPA with 2 As), it’s time I give my thoughts on education. In a lot of places, social media being one of them, you tend to hear people slam education. “College is a scam”, they’ll proclaim. I think these people really are of a lower mindset- survival mode, scarcity mindset, or as I like to call it, a loser mentality. I had written a report for a class (one of my math classes) that outlines just how much a college degree enhances your life. In fact, I compared the earnings of a college grad (Bachelor’s degree) versus a High School grad with their diploma. The findings are great. It’s an interesting read, as the facts and figures speak for themselves.

So here it is… The True Price of an Education.


In this report, we explore the earnings of a High School graduate versus the earnings of a Bachelor’s degree holder. In the Education Pays, 2013 pdf report (Baum, et al, 2013), the earnings of a 18 year old high school graduate is $35,400. The college student (who will go onto earn their Bachelor’s Degree), will be paying $9287.38 (estimated and adjusted for inflation) per year. I used the figures in Trends in College Pricing, 2013 as well as How Much is a College Degree Worth? to estimate the dollar value of an education.

NOTE: ALL NUMBERS, FIGURES AND STATS ARE BASED ON ESTIMATES DERIVED FROM Education Pays, 2013 (, as well as How Much is a College Degree Worth? ( plus Trends in College Pricing, 2013 among other resources.

The assumption of the more you learn, the more you earn certainly rings true here. While there are plenty of High School grads who do make six figures ($100,000 and up), the exceptions almost always prove the rule. The overwhelming majority of High School grads (who never went to college- 4-year or Community College) make considerably less than the 4-year Bachelor’s degree holder.

$52,200 $35,400


As illustrated above, the Bachelor’s degree holder earns $16,800 more annually. Percentage-wise, the Bachelor’s degree holder earns 147% more than the High School graduate. The High School grad starts out making more money simply because they have no student loan debt. As noted earlier, the degree holder starts out paying $9287.38 (adjusted for inflation) annually- compare that to how much the High School grad gets paid, it looks like the High School grad “may be ahead of the game” so to speak. Keep in mind that while the HS grad is out there working, getting paid- the college student is paying out money based on the expected return of investment. All things being equal, the degree holder averages $900,000 more in earnings than the HS graduate over a lifetime (per Social Security stats We also must keep in mind the various career paths that are out there- quite a few of them do not require any type of higher educational requirements. In fact, a large portion of the “blue-collar” fields require certifications that can be earned through the employer, oftentimes paid for by the employer.

With the facts and figures in the previous paragraphs, the question must be HOW did you come up with these numbers? WHERE does your information come from? WHY are you able to make your claims? Firstly we used the articles Trends in College Pricing, 2013 and the article How Much is a College Degree Worth? for our fact and figures. We also used several other sources (which will be listed in our RESOURCES section of the paper). The numbers of how much the tuition for attending college came from was Table 1A, page 10 from the Trends in College Pricing, 2013. The numbers used were for the 2013-14 school year and are adjusted for inflation. The numbers we used for our first set of figures is: $8893 (tuition for one year) * 1.029 (rate of inflation per 2013-14 school year). The following table will show how we came to the numbers:


TIME IN YEARS (t) y= Tuition in year t
0 (freshman) $8893
1 (sophomore) $9150.50
2 (junior) $9416.27
3 (senior) $9689.34







Note: the totals are based on multiplying $8893 (tuition based on 2013-14 statistics)* inflation rate (1.029) and raising the inflation rate by number of years. (e.g. $8893 * 1.029 ^2= $9416.)



Now we add these totals up. $8893 + $9150.50 + $9416.27 + $9689.34= $37149.51 (this is the total cost of tuition for a 4-year Bachelor’s program). We take this $37149.51 and divide this by 4 years and we come up with $9287.38 ($9287.3775 rounded up) for the average that is invested (or paid) in earning the degree. In part 1 of the Culminating Activity, there is the understanding that there are lost wages (money lost because of the pursuance of a degree instead of working) plus the cost of 4 years of tuition that will come to make up the total cost of a college education. We take the $35400 that the HS graduate earns annually and multiply that by 4 years (the same four years the undergrad will use to earn their degree). The total for the four years is as follows: $35400 (annual wages of the HS graduate) * 4 (years working/years in school) = $141600 total. We take that same $141600 total we just came up with and we add the $37149.51 (tuition) from earlier for a total of $178749.51. The total (estimated) cost of a college education is $178749.51 in four years.





Obviously, the degree holder is starting out in debt as opposed to the HS grad, who is working and making decent money from the beginning. The HS graduate is making money- but only to a certain point, then they will hit a ceiling (think somewhere around 19, 20 years). The degree holder starts out “in the red”- but only because of their investment in education. Money-wise, the degree holder earns more, and will eventually surpass the HS graduate. First, they will have to pay off their debts. They break even, then the earnings gap starts to close.

Earlier I stated that the degree holder starts out making a significant amount more than the HS graduate- $16,800 more. This is apparent as we go along in time.  The earnings gap does close, with the degree holder overtaking the HS graduate in earnings between years 19 and 20. The power of education makes it possible to reverse a six-figure debt (degree holder starts out owing $178,749.51) and turn that into an ever-growing surplus rather quickly (starting in year 4, the degree holder starts keeping more money (now that his debts have been paid). Using our calculations based on How Much Is A College Degree Worth? and Trends in College Pricing, 2013, it certainly appears that the degree holder has a brighter future than the HS graduate does. The equation that calculates how fast the degree holder gets out of debt and starts making money is: -$178.749.51 (total cost of college education) + $52,200 (annual earnings of a Bachelor’s degree holder- based on Table 1A, page 10 of Trends in College Pricing, 2013- earnings based on White male degree holder salaries).  (t) (t is time in years since college graduation).

Now, time for several other points that were made throughout the assignment:

X and Y Intercepts: The vertical and horizontal intercepts (according to Purplemath are quite simple. The x-intercept is where the graph crosses the x-axis. The y-intercept is where the graph crosses the y-axis. In a graph that was done in the assignment (in both the Culminating Activity and our calculations earlier in this report), we had an x-intercept (horizontal intercept) that was between year 3 and year 4 (where we calculated when the degree holder would finally have squared away their educational debt.

To answer number 8c in the Culminating Activity packet- How much does the total cost of a college degree change if it takes one more year to earn your degree? We add a year to the lost wages (calculated as $35400 * 5= $177,000). Then we add a year to the degree program $9287.38 (estimated average tuition) * 5= $46436.90. To add the two totals, $177,000 + $46436.90= $223,436.90. The total cost of a college education will go up by $44,687.39 for one more year (lost wages and tuition combined).

In number 8h in the Culminating Activity, the task was given to decrease the amount of the annual wage of the HS grad and talk about how the graph changes. We went ahead and decreased the wages of the HS grad from $35400 annually to $28800 annually. What changed? Everything.  For starters, the total cost of a college education/college debt for the degree holder dropped 17.3 percentage points, or $26.399.99, to $152,349.52. in addition to the total cost/starting debt value changing, it took less time for the degree holder to get out of debt, allowing that degree holder to keep more of the money they made. The time in which the degree holder gets out of debt gets moved up a year also. Previously at the $34,500 wage mark, the degree holder had to work approximately 3 ½ years to square their debts away. Now it is approximately 2 ½ years to pay off their school debts. Lastly, the lifetime wages changed. Whereas the lifetime earnings of a HS grad at $35,400 a year was (according to our calculations) was $1,062,000. At the $28,800 wage mark, the lifetime earnings of a HS graduate shrinks to $864,000.

For number 5, the question was asked to find the slope (or rate of change) both the HS grad and the degree holder. For the HS grad, the rate of change was $35,400. For the degree holder, the rate of change is $52,200. The difference (aside from the previously mentioned wages and percentages) is a difference in lifestyle and even those intangibles (the intellect and discipline needed to earn the degree) that backed up the earning potential of the degree holder.

Next for this segment, is number 7 which asks to locate and explain the horizontal intercept and what it means in terms of the college graduate’s earnings. The horizontal intercept is between year 3 and year 4. This will represent the time it will take for the degree holder to “break even” with the debts of their education.

Lastly, for question number 7, page 11 of the Culminating Activity, the authors asks us about our estimates of when the degree holder’s earnings overtakes the HS grad’s earnings. The authors came up with an answer of 14 years. 14 years it would take for the degree holder to make more than the H.S. grad. In my calculations, I calculated 19 years, a 5-year gap from what the authors surmised.



In Closing

In closing, I would like to add the following: number 8 on page 11 of the Culminating Activity asks for any other benefits of a college education- anything other than what Education Pays, 2013 would suggest? There are quite a few of them.

  • Quality of life. Life is better when you can afford better things and not have to be in survival mode all the time.
  • More often than not, having a degree will expose you to a higher level of society, allowing for travel, whether it’s cross-country or across the globe.
  • Achieving dreams. Earning a degree is nothing to sneeze at. In fact, it’s one of the defining moments for an aspiring and ambitious student. The realization of a dream will no doubt produce a greater satisfaction of life and everything in it.
  • Social Mobility. Earning a degree usually means you are ascending to a different social class. You will be treated somewhat better, you will be able to do a few things that “the blue-collar crowd” will not be able to or have access to do them.
  • Lifestyles & Habits. Having a degree will no doubt open you up to a new lifestyle- a more cultured, easygoing, inclusive worldview.
  • Civic Involvement. No matter your political leanings, being a degree holder can sometimes mean an unspoken feeling of responsibility. A responsibility to make your world a better place. Whatever it may be, voting, activism- it is all because of an enlightenment, an enhanced worldview that lends to a more thoughtful, globally conscious way to live.

The report implies that the above list is impacted positively forever by a college education. A more benevolent, socially aware, health-conscious, charitable, magnanimous way of life compared to a more hardscrabble mindset that is often displayed by the H.S. graduate.




How Much is a College Degree Worth? (

Education Pays, 2013 (