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Study Shows College Essential in Post Recovery Economy

Since the recession, the vast majority of jobs have gone to workers with college degrees. (David Maiolo/Wikimedia Commons)
Since the recession, the vast majority of jobs have gone to workers with college degrees. (David Maiolo/Wikimedia Commons)
June 30, 2016

HARRISBURG, Pa. – A high school diploma isn't enough in the post-recession job market, according to a new study from the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce.

Since the recession ended, 8.4 million of all jobs created have gone to people with at least a bachelor's degree, but only 80,000 went to workers with a high school diploma or less.

According to Anthony Carnevale, director of the Center, through the early 1980s, 70 percent of American workers had no more than a high school diploma, and half were high school dropouts.

"We've crossed a line in the United States where, in order to get ahead, you really do need some kind of education or training beyond high school," he states.

This year, for the first time ever, a higher percentage of the workforce has a college degree than those with a high school diploma or less.

But the cost of a college education has skyrocketed in recent years, trapping many people in a sort of economic catch-22.

As Carnevale points out, the only thing more expensive than going to college now, is not going to college.

"On average you'll lose a cool million dollars over your career if you don't have a college degree, but at the same time college is increasingly unaffordable for a larger and larger share of Americans," he points out.

Currently about 88 percent of Pennsylvanians graduate from high school, and 26 percent earn a bachelor's degree, which is close to the national average.

Carnevale says the good news is some associate's degrees and even some one-year certificate programs can lead to jobs that pay more than the average college graduate earns.

"We've got to pay a lot more attention to providing more skill after high school for all Americans and providing retraining for people who get left behind," Carnevale stresses.

The Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce study concludes that education beyond high school has become essential to compete in the 21st century labor market.


Andrea Sears, Public News Service - PA