I have been watching the statistics for decades. The statistics demonstrate education pays. Im a believer.
I did not need the statistics to become a believer. Nevertheless, they confirmed what I already knew intuitively.
Anyone can argue the relative merits of pursuing higher education or choosing not to pursue it. Pros and cons exist certainly. Nevertheless, for the person who desires to improve his or her odds significantly of being gainfully employed, higher education is a major factor.
The January 2012 unemployment rate (from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. http://www.bls.gov/news.release/empsit.t04.htm) for persons not having a high school diploma is 13.1%. Having a high school diploma drops that rate to 8.4% and some college or a two-year degree drops it further to 7.2%. Pretty good trending, wouldnt you say?
Finally, if we look at people having a four-year degree, a graduate degree, or a doctoral degree, the unemployment rate is a low 4.2%. Not bad, given our rough economy.
Higher educations value is especially clear when you consider the relative value of these numbers over the range of values. Look at the two ends of the spectrum: less-than-high school (13.1%); four-year degree or higher (4.2%). Consistently, regardless of the time period, the rates differ by a factor of 2 to 4.
This is why, when people seek my counsel about career planning, higher education is always one of my main emphases. Education pays.