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Home Publications Blogs CEPR Blog Why Don't More Young People Go To College?

Why Don't More Young People Go To College?

Written by John Schmitt   
Monday, 23 July 2012 09:45

Heather Boushey and I have a piece in the new issue of Challenge that asks why more young people don’t follow the advice of economists and go to college. We think two factors are particularly important.

First of all, while it is certainly the case that the average college graduate earns a lot more than the average high school graduate, a small, but important share of workers with college degrees actually earn less than the average high school graduate in the same age range – even before factoring in the cost of college. We argue that many young people on the fence about attending college or not might be taking their cues from those who are on the low end, not the middle or high end, of the college-graduate earnings pool.

Second, while the payoff to college definitely grew a lot between 1980 and 2000 (though not really since then), it is also the case that the cost of college has increased even more. Financial aid has offset only a part of this increase in tuition and fees. The shift in financial aid from grants to loans has exacerbated concerns about cost, since many young people and their families worry about being saddled with large, long-term debt, especially when more than 40 percent of those who start college don’t complete their degree within six years.

You can read the whole piece (behind a paywall) here.

This post originally appeared on John Schmitt's blog, No Apparent Motive.

Comments (1)Add Comment
Adults share these concerns regarding debt and education
written by JPRIII, July 23, 2012 12:22
Adults who can benefit from returning to college also worry about being saddled with additional debt on top of housing, and child care (no small expense). I find in workign with adults that when grants are eliminated, the students or potential students do not continue their education. John you were right on shift to loans. Just last week Congress reverted Pell Grants from 9 to 6 years of eligibility. When going to school part time while working, 6 years is not that long to allow for college. Dangerous private loans become almost all that is available to these adult students who might be only a one or two semesters of hours from graduating.

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