Why Get a College Degree?
A college degree is worthwhile for social and cultural reasons as well economic ones. But even focusing on the economic ones alone, the question is easy to answer. A person with a college degree is highly likely to earn more than a person without one. In fact, the education premium has been increasing, not decreasing, even though the biggest reason is that people without college degrees earn even less than they used to.
Here is a graph from a 2014 report by Pew Research, a non-partisan think tank, that found that the earnings premium for having a college degree was at a record high.
Here is a graph from MIT economics Professor David Autor (published in Science Magazine in May 2014) that clinches the deal:
Yes, some percentage of young people will go to college, earn a degree, then for any of numerous reasons, may not earn enough to pay for what they spent and borrowed. But that does not mean that those young people should not have gone to college. Ex ante, as economists say, that is before the students went to college, they could not have known which of them would succeed economically and which would not.
The Education Solution has a more extended discussion of this issue, as well as discussions of many similar issues that bear on how to make public policy in the education arena.