When it comes to higher education, there are few topics more controversial than whether a college diploma has any concrete value.
But according to a new analysis from the Economic Policy Institute, a four-year college degree has never been more rewarding.
Last year, the pay gap between college graduates and those without degrees stretched wider than ever before. In the U.S., graduates of four-year colleges made an average of about 98% more than everyone else, up from 89% in 2008.
These findings come on the heels of other research suggesting that, among people from similar backgrounds, those who attend college have a significant economic advantage over those who don’t.
One study, published this week, found that the cost of a college degree is actually negative $500,000. (To get that number, the study’s author subtracted the cost of tuition and fees from the difference between the average wages of college and high school graduates, and then adjusted for the cost of inflation and the time-value of money.)
But wait—haven’t salaries for college graduates basically stagnated over the last decade? While it’s true that average hourly wages for college grads have increased just 1% in the last 10 years to about $32.60, the average wage for non-college grads has gone down 5%, to about $16.50, The New York Times reports.
At the same time, the proportion of grads who believe college was worth their time and money has decreased significantly. Only 62% of Millennials say their degree has “paid off,” compared to 84% of Gen Xers and 89% of Boomers—which probably has something to do with the fact that the class of 2014 is the most burdened by student debt in history.