Is A University Degree Worth $1 Million?


Amidst concern for the growing price of education and the value an undergraduate degree has in today’s economy, the Association of Universities and College (AUCC) released some statistics they hope will prove that university grads are not only better off than those without a degree, but that they are also needed for the recovering economy.

Degrees pay off in the long run

Citing Statistics Canada studies, the AUCC states that those with undergraduate degrees will earn $1 million more than their college counterparts over their career, and $1.3 million more than those with only a high school education.

Even during the most recent recession (between September 2008 and March 2010), AUCC published that there were 150,000 more job for university grads and 684,000 fewer positions for those without a degree.

Other benefits of a getting degree

Overall, university grads also face fewer times of unemployment. The AUCC suggests that this is because a university education is very flexible in terms of possible career paths.

AUCC cites a 2006 census which states that the of the 120,000 people with bachelor’s degrees who worked in the computer and information systems field, only 36% had majored in computer science. The other 64% had degrees in other disciplines.

Beyond the adaptability of those with a degree, the AUCC predicts that there will be a widening gap in the job market that university students will be needed to fill.

“A shift from a resource-based economy to a knowledge-based economy is one factor,” says Lyse Huot, director of government relations and communications for the AUCC. “From 1990 to 2009, the number of jobs filled by people with a degree more than doubled – from 1.9 million to 4.2 million. At the same time, there were 1.1 million fewer jobs for those with a high-school diploma or less.”

In addition, by 2030 a great number of baby boomers will be retiring leaving a gap for professionals with a wide variety of expertise.

Are degrees really recession proof?

When asked why some students and parents may not feel the investment in a degree is financially worth it, Huot suggests it is “because some graduates have a hard time finding a well-paying job in their field of interest or training. However, the great majority of university graduates find a job in their field of expertise shortly after graduating.”

She cites a study which shows that “between 2004 and 2009, employment of bachelor’s graduates rose by 22% and by 28% for those with a graduate degree,” while employment for college and high school students grew at smaller rates.

The AUCC will release additional information in a publication in January 2011.

Do you think higher education is worth the cost in the long run?

About the author

Jillian Wood recently completed her Bachelor of Arts in communication studies and English with a business minor at Wilfrid Laurier University. Jillian became a social media convert last summer and, since then, has been tweeting about all the things she finds interesting on her Twitter account.