The True Cost Of Higher Education

Can you afford not to have a degree? Sarah Thomas, a second- year student at Keele University, sizes up the statistics

The financial website estimated in 2012 that the average cost of going to university is £53,330, which is an astonishing amount of money. But in comparison to not getting a university education, is a degree more cost effective than at first glance? What is the real cost of not going to university?

In 2011 the Office for National Statistics (ONS) published a report in which they found that, over the last decade, people with degrees earned £12,000 a year more on average than those without a university education Additionally, the ONS found non-graduate salaries peaked at just £19,400 at 34, while graduates went on to earn up to £34,500 at 51. However, this is not the only advantage that degree holders have over their non-graduate counterparts.

Sarah Thomas, winner of the 2013 SMM writing competition
Sarah Thomas, winner of the 2013 SMM writing competition

A US study also shows that non-graduates have worse job prospects in an already stagnant economy. Georgetown University’s Centre on Education and the Workforce published a study in 2012 which revealed that graduates gained 187,000 jobs during the 2007-2012 recession, whereas 5.6m jobs were lost by those without higher education qualifications during the same time period.

This has repercussions on issues which at first might not seem related. As extraordinary as it sounds, there may be a link between the age a person buys their first home and whether or not they have a university education. In 2012, one of the UK’s largest property websites, claimed that a whopping 69% of prospective first- time buyers were university educated, with an average age of 30 compared to 32 for non-graduates.

Overall, the real cost of not going to university is more far reaching than just the differences in average earnings. Other things to consider are the ability to put away savings or provide greater contributions to pension schemes. Of course, investing in higher education is not the be all and end all; getting a degree is no guarantee of success. However, the studies that I have found speak for themselves; at the end of the day, while paying more than £50,000 for a degree is shocking, the cost of not having a degree is far higher.

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