(WKBN) – Many families struggle with the high cost of higher education and student loan debt is the highest it’s ever been, so at a time when high school seniors are applying to universities, some may be wondering if it’s all worth it.

According to the Social Security Administration, a college degree substantially raises earning potential. The agency reports that there are large differences in earnings by educational attainment.

The Social Security Administration reports that men with bachelor’s degrees earn approximately $900,000 more in median lifetime earnings than high school graduates. Women with bachelor’s degrees earn $630,000 more. Men with graduate degrees earn $1.5 million more in median lifetime earnings than high school graduates. Women with graduate degrees earn $1.1 million more.

There are socio-demographic variables that contribute to earnings, and for some, those numbers could be reduced but are still substantial.

Lifetime returns of getting a degree show that the net present lifetime value at age 20 of a bachelor’s degree relative to a high school diploma is $260,000 for men and $180,000 for women. For those with a graduate degree, it is $400,000 for men and $310,000 for women.

According to Forbes.com, the cost of higher education has increased by over 25% in the last 10 years. The College Board reported that the average sticker price for full-time undergraduate students is: (2021-22):

  • Public four-year in-state: $10,740, $170 higher than in 2020-21 (1.6% before adjusting for inflation)
  • Public four-year out-of-state: $27,560, $410 higher than in 2020-21 (1.5% before adjusting for inflation)
  • Public two-year in-district: $3,800, $50 higher than in 2020-21 (1.3% before adjusting for inflation)
  • Private nonprofit four-year: $38,070, $800 higher than in 2020-21 (2.1% before adjusting for inflation)

After rapid growth in annual borrowing between 2005-2006 and 2010-11, total federal loans to undergraduate students declined by 46% ($38.6 billion in 2020 dollars) between 2010-11 and
2020-21; federal loans to graduate students decreased by 7% ($2.7 billion), according to the College Board.

According to U.S. News, the 20 highest-earning professions include:

  • Anesthesiologist
  • Surgeon
  • Obstetrician and gynecologist
  • Orthodontist
  • Physician
  • Psychiatrist
  • Prosthodontist
  • Nurse anesthetist
  • Pediatrician
  • Dentist
  • Pilot
  • Manager
  • Marketing Manager
  • Petroleum Engineer
  • Financial Manager
  • Podiatrist
  • Lawyer
  • Sales Manager
  • Business Operations Manager