It takes until age 34 to earn back the cost of a US university degree

A decade’s wait.
A decade’s wait.
Image: Reuters/Chip East
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One of the biggest dilemmas of the modern age is thus: Is a college degree worth it? Yes. And also no.

The College Board suggests another answer: Yes, but you may have to wait 12 years.

According to new research published today from the American non-profit organization, which conducts education studies and runs the SAT, the average US bachelor’s degree recipient doesn’t recoup the cost of obtaining a degree—measured as tuition paid, plus wages lost from not being in the workforce for four years—until age 34.

There are benefits aplenty of going to college. The report notes that degree-holders have median earnings that are 67%, or $24,600, higher than high-school graduates; college grads also are more likely to volunteer, exercise, vote in elections, and have job benefits like health insurance. ”A college education is an investment that pays dividends over the course of a lifetime, even for students who accumulate some debt to obtain a degree,” the College Board’s senior policy research scientist Jennifer Ma said in a press release.

Nonetheless, a decade after graduation is a long time to be in the red. The decision to make that so-called investment remains deeply personal, especially as student debt in the US climbs—to the point where senior citizens are borrowing for their grandkids.