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Economy and Business

College graduates have more debt, but it pays off in the long run
Cleveland Federal Reserve says college graduates still make more over their lifetimes

College graduates may have more debt, but they can expect to earn more in the long run.
Courtesy of John Walker
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Chances are that if you have nailed a college degree to your wall recently, you are also nailed with debt. But some new research from the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland says degree earners are still better off in the long-term than those without a diploma.

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The study examined households of people in their 20s where at least one member had a college degree, and compared them to households where no one had more than a high school education. The college grad households had more debt -- $15,000 more, acknowledged Dan Carroll of the Federal Reserve in Cleveland, who co-authored the study. 

“While $15,000 difference is a significant amount of money, that’s actually still relatively small compared to the expected difference in lifetime earnings between someone with just a high-school degree and someone who’s completed a college degree,” Carroll says.

The research shows that adults 30 and over with a college degree earn about $17,000 more a year than those who did not go to college. As Carroll suggests, it opens more doors down range.

“You’ll likely have access to senior level positions later in your career that you might otherwise be prohibited from," Carroll says. "Those senior positions can pay quite a bit more.”

That is true in the main scheme of things, but other studies highlight caveats. Recent analysis by The Economist magazine points out not all degrees are equally useful. A lot depends on where you went college, how much you paid, what you studied and what career field you ended up in. 

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