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ERIC Number: EJ1015240
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2013
Pages: 25
Abstractor: ERIC
ISSN: ISSN-1054-8289
Making College Worth It: A Review of the Returns to Higher Education
Oreopoulos, Philip; Petronijevic, Uros
Future of Children, v23 n1 p41-65 Spr 2013
Despite a general rise in the return to college, likely due to technological change, the cost-benefit calculus facing prospective students can make the decision to invest in and attend college dauntingly complex. Philip Oreopoulos and Uros Petronijevic review research on the varying costs and benefits of higher education and explore in full the complexity of the decision to invest in and attend college. They begin by explaining the classic theory that describes the decision to go to college, taking note of factors that complicate that decision. They then review evidence about the return to college and the economic benefits that college graduates enjoy, and discuss the causal effect of attending college on earnings. They emphasize that the relative returns to a college education are rising--in terms of earnings--but are not the same for everyone who decides to attend. Earnings differ widely depending on program of study and the eventual occupation one pursues. Next they explore what is behind the recent rise in the earnings of those who attend college. Like many others, we suggest that the increase has been driven largely by technological change, which has, in turn, increased demand for workers with skills that complement the use of new technologies. They then briefly address the intensifying debate over whether college acts merely as a signal of skill that already exists at school entry or whether it fosters new skills. Next they discuss the possibility of nonpecuniary benefits stemming from college. Returning to the economic benefits of the college premium, they examine how college completion and school quality affect the premium. In closing they discuss the costs of different levels of higher education and student debt and show that the cost of college is properly considered as a long-term investment. The article concludes with a final assessment on the college investment, given the evidence we have to date. (Contains 4 figures and 71 endnotes.)
Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University and The Brookings Institution. 267 Wallace Hall, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ 08544. Tel: 609-258-6979; e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Information Analyses; Reports - Evaluative
Education Level: Higher Education; Postsecondary Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Grant or Contract Numbers: N/A
IES Cited: ED544772