Although anyone can and will criticize higher education, millennials are evidently smart enough to know its value. In spite of the horror stories about student loan debt, academic disasters, and wrong career turns, millennials boast the highest graduation rate of any generation to date.

Good for them! The statistics remain on their side—and the side of anyone who pursues higher education. Anthony P. Carnevale is the director of the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce. Based on his research, that trend will only continue (Gillian B. White “Those Savvy Millennials” The Atlantic, May 2015, p. 38):

  • In 1973, 32% of jobs did not even require a high school diploma, 9% required a bachelor’s degree, and 7% required a master’s degree or higher.
  • It is projected that by 2020, 12% of jobs will not require a high school diploma, 24% will require a bachelor’s degree, and 11% will require a master’s degree or higher.

In addition to those insights, the unemployment figures reveal the enduring value of higher education. The seasonally adjusted April 2015 unemployment rate for persons not having a high school diploma is 8.6% (Bureau of Labor Statistics). Having a high school diploma drops that rate to 5.4% and some college or a two-year degree drops it further to 4.7%. Pretty good trending, would you not agree? Finally, if we look at people having a four-year degree, a graduate degree, or a doctoral degree, the unemployment rate is a low 2.7%. Not bad, given our rough economy.

Higher education’s edge is especially clear when you consider the range of these numbers over the level of higher education. Look at the two ends of the spectrum: less-than-high school (8.6%) versus a four-year degree or higher (2.7%). Consistently, regardless of the measured time, the unemployment rate for a less-than-high-school-educated worker is two to four times larger than for the college-degreed worker. This is why, when people seek my counsel about career planning, higher education is always one of my main emphases. Education pays. Degrees still rock.

Regardless of how good or bad the economy is, regardless of how many individual academic and career disasters can be cited, and regardless of how loudly the antidegree crowd howls, you are still in a better position having a degree than not having a degree. The good news for the millennials is that they have arrived at the same conclusion and now they will enjoy the benefits.

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