Getting a higher degree may yield a higher salary but also a higher student debt. Is it worth it?
By Deborah Jeanne Sergeant
Student with Salary – Median Weekly
GED – $820
Associate degree – $981
Bachelor’s degree – $1,400
Master’s degree – $1,731
If you’re approaching your graduation, you may be considering a question facing many graduates:
Do I pursue more education or start working?
If continuing your education means racking up more debt, working to pay it off may seem wiser; however, the more you learn, the more you’ll earn long-term.
“On average, the more skills, training or education someone receives, their wages tend to increase and their likelihood of being unemployed decreases,” said Karen Knapik-Scalzo, associate economist with the New York State Department of Labor Division of Research & Statistics in Syracuse.
This is because the additional education, particularly if it means specialization, can make your skills more valuable since fewer people have that expertise.
According to the New York Department of Labor, people with a high school diploma or GED earn a median weekly income of $820. Compare that baseline with that of people with an associate degree who receive $981.
That goes up to $1,400 for a bachelor’s degree and $1,731 for a master’s or higher.
These figures make it clear that more education means more money; however, students have to pay for acquiring that education. Unless you’re one of the rare students who receives a full scholarship (and only 0.3% of students do, according to the book “Secrets of Winning a Scholarship” by Mark Kantrowitz), you’ll have to pay a hefty amount for tuition.
The consideration of finances and acquiring additional college loan debt “is a definite reality for students,” said Keiko Kimura, vice president for workforce development and partnerships and head of the Cayuga Community College Fulton campus. “For us, we want to promote the idea that it doesn’t have to be an either or proposition.”
In workforce development, the school promotes flexible training so students can work full-time while furthering their education. Online and hybrid classes and evening classes often provide the flexibility students need.
“It doesn’t require giving up a whole lot of your free time,” Kimura said. “It’s designed to address this issue of having to choose between one or the other. As an institution, we’re making great strides in providing flexibility for students to do both.”
Cayuga is also working with many entities in the community to cover fees and tuition for those who qualify and obtain grants to help with expenses. Kimura does not want to see finances as a barrier to students who want more training.
For those who decide to pursue their careers right away, the employment openings abound, according to Michelle Jevis, co-owner of CR Fletcher Temps and CR Fletcher Industrials, both in Syracuse.
“Recent graduates have good opportunities available,” she said.
Many companies offer tuition reimbursement as a means to attract new talent. Whether a certificate or credit-bearing classes, these opportunities add value to your resume.