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Why 2 in 5 Americans don’t see the value in their college degree.

53.2 million Americans aren’t sure their college degree was worth the money.

Are you one of the nearly 61% of Americans who’s earned a two- or four-year degree? If so, there’s a good chance you’re among the 39% of Americans who say they aren’t sure (13%) or don’t think (26%) that college was worth the money, according to the latest survey data from Finder.

Was your college degree worth it?

A total 53.2 million former students say they’re unsure about the value of their degree, part of 39.4% of the 135 million Americans who’ve completed higher education.

It’s little wonder that such a high percentage of those with degrees think their college wasn’t worth the money, given the 28.2% (14.5 million) of them who are unable to find a job within their field of study.

How do the results differ by gender?

Men are 6.6% more likely to hold a degree than women. Today, 53.3% of men have earned a higher education degree compared with 46.7% of women with a college degree. A similar disparity exists in whether you’d say your degree was worth the money, with 64.7% of men (46.6 million) asserting its worth versus 55.9% of women (35.2 million) who’d agree.

How do the generations value their higher education?

When you walked the graduation stage might influence whether you think your degree was worth the money. Of those who said they didn’t think college was worth it, 25.5% report they’re unable to find a job in their field. Interestingly, 38.6% said they weren’t using their degree in their current profession. And 16.6% said they’d dropped out of college before obtaining their degree.

We hear a lot about millennials who struggle in the job market. But according to our survey, Gen Xers are the generation most likely to find trouble landing a job in their field of study, with 32% of respondents pointing to this as the reason they don’t think college was worth the money.

Baby boomers are the generation most likely to say that might say they don’t see the value in a college, with 47% not currently using their degrees. Baby boomers, unsurprisingly, are also the generation most likely to cite changing careers (18%) as the reason their degree wasn’t worth it.

High-income earners value education

According to Finder’s study, if you’re making bank then you probably think college was worth the money. Our findings show that satisfaction with college increases in line with household income.

Student loan debt on the rise

Student loan debt has tripled since 2006 and now makes up $1.45 trillion in household debt, according to Finder’s analysis of Federal Reserve Bank data. If growth continues at this rate, student loan balances are set to overtake those of mortgages by 2042.

Underemployment causes $462.3 billion in student loan waste

Some 43.7% of recent graduates — those ages 22 to 27 with a bachelor’s degree or higher — are underemployed, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York’s Labor Market for Recent College Graduates. It could mean they’re working in jobs that don’t require their degrees.

Worse still, the report finds that 34.4% of all college grads ages 22 to 65 with a bachelor’s degree or higher are underemployed. That means some $462.3 billion in student loan debt is potentially repaid by people in jobs that don’t require the degree that cost them so much to earn.

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For all media inquiries, please contact:

Richard Laycock, Insights editor and senior content marketing manager


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