More Students Enter College to Find High-Paying Jobs

By Catherine Groux
Posted January 25, 2013 10:00 AM

Many students enroll in college to find high-paying jobs.
Many students enroll in college to find high-paying jobs.

Every individual who decides to enroll in college and earn a bachelor's degree has his or her own reasons for doing so. While some hope to gain field-specific knowledge to land a certain career, others simply hope to grow on a personal level. While these goals are important, a new survey by the University of California, Los Angeles' Higher Education Research Institute shows that increasingly, landing a high-paying job is students' top reason for earning a bachelor's degree.

In Pursuit of a Stable Job

Today, about 87.6% of incoming freshmen say getting a better job was one of their primary reasons for going to college, up from 85.9% in 2011 and marking a drastic increase from 67.8% in 1976.

"With the recession going on, they have seen so many people losing jobs and hopefully have seen statistics that those with college degrees are much more likely to have jobs than people who don't have college degrees," said John H. Pryor, the study's main author and the institute's managing director, as quoted by the Los Angeles Times.

Currently, students rank landing a good job as their number one reason for earning a degree, placing it above gaining a general education and making more money. However, this does not mean that college freshmen are not thinking about how a bachelor's degree will affect them financially. According to the report, 81% of incoming freshmen said "being very well off financially" is one of their personal goals, up from 79.6% in 2011.

Research Proves College's Value

In recent years, a great deal of research has shown that college students do, indeed, have reason to believe that by earning a bachelor's degree they can find high-paying positions. In 2011, while the unemployment rate for high school graduates was 9.4%, bachelor's degree holders enjoyed a jobless rate of 4.9%, compared to the average rate of 7.6%, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports.

At the same time, high school diploma holders tended to earn median salaries of $638 per week in 2011. Four-year college graduates, however, saw their salaries rise to $1,053 per week, the BLS states. For this reason, a college degree is now considered one of the best ways Americans can secure a middle-class life.

"The vast majority of new jobs require higher skills and if you don't have a college degree, your chances of being in the middle class are visibly diminished," said Jamie P. Merisotis, president and chief executive officer of the Lumina Foundation. "There is a high probability that you'll be poor without some form of postsecondary education and that makes education one of the most critical factors in our nation's long-term economic growth plans."

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