Get a degree and over the next 20 years earn $192,000 less than a high school grad? Yes! Check this list.

It’s about time that we started cataloging actual return on investment for college tuition.  There are a number of ways to do this, and surveys that rate future income potential from various schools and/or courses. But here’s a really provocative one: a survey that calculates how far ahead you’d be if you didn’t go to one of these schools and take one of these courses, and just got a job with a high school education, after 20 years you’d be at least $30,000 ahead.


That’s the minimum. In some cases, you’d be ahead by much more (or down by much more, if you’d paid for a degree).

It gets worse when you look at specific programs, and  compare the self-reported earnings  of grads from those programs (over a 20 year period following graduation) with what typical high school grads would have earned over that same period of time. For example, if you paid to get a degree in Humanities and English from Florida International University, after 20 years you’d have earned $192,000 less than if you’d skipped that degree and just gone into the workforce out of high school. Yikes!

You can read the complete table here. 

I’m not digging deeply into the specific schools and programs, nor am I insisting that this particular survey, or its methodology, are the best that can be had. What’s more important is the underlying idea: that university degrees should not be exempt from the same tough-minded analysis of  costs and benefits that we apply to other large investments. The more scrutiny  there is, the more easily we can weed out the non-performers (non-performing either because their costs are too high or their results are too poor, or some combination of both). The more easily we can weed out the non-performers — especially if we establish a climate where such scrutiny becomes the norm — the more quickly we can get value for our money. And I say “we” and “our” deliberately…because guess who’s footing the bills.



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. Vice President, Zoomer Media Ltd. . Author of "The New Old" . 30 years experience in marketing communications, advertising, media . Speaker, writer, commentator on the revolution in aging and how to market to Boomers and seniors