To Get A Degree, Or Not To Get A Degree

A media buzz has caused some people to question one longstanding pillar of American culture: the value of a higher education. Prospective students hear accounts of self-made billionaires such as Mark Zuckerberg and Steve Jobs who eschewed the familiar trajectory of success and dropped out of school. The New York Times reported that since 1985, consumer prices have roughly doubled, but college tuition has skyrocketed 559 percent during that same time. In light of these developments, do people believe that a degree is worth the investment of time, effort and money?  The answer is a resounding YES. Not only are occupations that require increasingly advanced degrees on the rise according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), but also Americans still subscribe strongly to the value of a college education.

A new study by Northeastern University found that more than two-thirds of adults in the U.S. deem a college degree very important for finding a job, getting promotions, developing personally, gaining a global perspective, having success throughout life, and ultimately achieving the American dream. They also found that Millennials (aged 18-30) are more likely than other Americans to be in support of an emergent trend in higher learning: online education. A new study of 2,820 active, degree-granting schools found that the proportion of students taking at least one online course is at an all-time high of 32%. And this upward trend shows no signs of waning.

This infographic examines the continuing importance of a college education to all Americans and the blossoming reputation of online degrees, especially among young adults.


“Changing Course: Ten Years of Tracking Online Education in the United States,” Babson Survey Research Group, 2013,

Northeastern University: Innovation in Higher Education Survey Toplines, Northeastern University,

Why Tuition Has Skyrocketed at State Schools, The New York Times, March 2012,

For a complete list of sources, please view the infographic.