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Robert A. Clark is the president of Husson University.

With the annual inflation rate for the United States at 7.7 percent for the 12 months ending Oct. 31, 2022 after previously rising to 8.2 percent, many families have had to tighten their financial belts. In reexamining their financial priorities, some families have begun to question whether it still makes sense to spend their hard-earned money on college degrees. After all, paying for a degree is the largest investment a person will make besides paying for a car or a home. Do students still get a solid return on their investment when they get a college degree?

The answer is an emphatic yes! And here’s why:

A college degree increases lifetime earnings, which in turn, better equips college graduates to handle personal economic challenges and weather life’s financial storms. According to the Social Security Administration people who complete bachelor’s degrees earn between $630,000 and $900,000 more than high school graduates over the course of their lifetimes. Those who earn master’s degrees earn $1.1 million to $1.5 million more than individuals with only a high school diploma.

In addition, investing in education provides an increased level of job security. During the “Great Recession,” the unemployment rate for individuals 25 years and older with less than a high school diploma was 10.6 percent in the fourth quarter of 2008. During the same period, the jobless rate for high school graduates with no more than a high school diploma was 7 percent.

By comparison, those individuals with some college coursework or an associate’s degree faced an unemployment rate of 5.5 percent while those with a bachelor’s degree or higher fared the best with an unemployment rate of just 3.3 percent.

There is also a health benefit to higher education. According to a paper published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) Network, the estimated life expectancy of college-educated individuals at 25 is higher than those without a four year degree.  

Completing a college degree can increase lifetime earnings, enhance job security and improve life-expectancy. There’s no doubt that individuals who make the investment in education now may have to make choices and sacrifices that will be difficult in the short term, but the degrees earned today will provide long-term benefits in longevity and quality of life.

I recognize that America’s social and financial inequities can make the process of completing a college education seem daunting. Anyone who is interested in earning a degree should reach out to colleges like Husson University and explore their options. There are a variety of alternatives, financial assistance and timeframes that can be tailored to meet individuals’ needs. There is not one “right way” to continue one’s education and there is likely an option and time frame that can work for each person’s unique situation.

Completing a college degree now, can provide “dividends” that last a lifetime.