Economic Research, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

Is College Still Worth the High Price? Weighing Costs and Benefits of Investing in Human Capital

September 05, 2023

Students have several options for life after high school, including enrolling in college, pursing a technical training program, starting a career, or enlisting for military service. While college has been a popular choice, college enrollment for recent high school graduates has dropped from its peak of 70% in 2009 to 61% in 2021.1 In fact, some people are challenging the notion that college is the best route for the majority of students. A March 2023 survey found that only 42% of Americans believe college is worth the cost because it leads to better job opportunities and higher income, while 56% believe that earning a college degree is not worth the cost. That has changed a lot in 10 years: A 2013 study found that 53% believed college was a good decision, while 40% believed it wasn't.2

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