Two statistics that can change the course of a lifetime

Two statistics that surprised me quite a bit.

1. Only one-third of American adults older than 24 years-old have a college degree. 

It's easy for college graduates who are surrounded by college graduates in their workplace and their social life to assume that a majority of Americans have graduated from college with an undergraduate degree.

Not even close.

Traditional, post-high school college graduates are surprisingly still the exception rather than the rule. 

And this statistic included me at one time. Thanks to a number of factors, including poverty, an absence of parental support, a complete lack of interest in my future by guidance counselors, a bout of homelessness, and an arrest and trial for a crime I did not commit, I didn’t make it to college until I was 24 years old and did not graduate until I was 29. 

And I was one of the lucky ones. The vast majority of Americans who don’t attend college after high school never make it to college.

There are many factors preventing Americans from earning a college degree, but one of the primary barriers is this:

Only 54.8 percent of college students graduate in six years. The dropout rate in college is exceptionally high, and while some of this can be attributed to failing grades and a lack of interest in education, the majority of student drop out for financial reasons:

  • They can no longer pay for tuition

  • A family emergency or illness has required them to return home

  • Working full-time while also attending college proved to be impossible for them

Graduating college is a great accomplishment, but if a student is reasonably intelligent and their parents are paying the tuition and the student doesn’t need to work in order to survive and can focus solely on their studies, it becomes a slightly less impressive accomplishment.

More of an expectation, really.

2. Americans in their prime working years with an undergraduate degree make 68 percent more on average than people who only have high school diplomas. 

This is an astounding number.

The average high school graduate in their prime working years makes about $34,000 per year.

The average college graduate during that same time makes about $60,000 per year.

Over the course of just 20 years, that differential equates to more than half a millions dollars, and that doesn’t account for how that that additional money might have been used. The purchase of real estate, the investment in a 401K or similar retirement account, and other potential investments could quickly grow that additional income considerably.

Getting a college education can be the difference between financial stability and financial anxiety for a lifetime.

Sadly, only about a third of Americans understand this.