It has never been more expensive to get a college education in America. Here are the reasons why:

  1. According to the U.S. Statistical Abstract, the average annual income of an adult high school graduate is $31,000 per year. That is little more than half of someone with a four-year college degree earning an average of $57,000. Those who don't finish high school fare even worse, earning an average of just $20,000 per year. People who earn advanced degrees earn much more than four-year college graduates.

  2. Unemployment is higher for people with less education. The unemployment rate for college graduates was about 60 percent lower in 2011 than for those who had not finished high school and almost 50 percent lower than for high school graduates.

  3. The world has a surplus of unskilled labor. There are billions of people in the world who lack a college education and who are willing to work. Many are willing to work hard for shockingly little, but do it in order to feed their families. Work that can be performed by unskilled labor abroad puts greater pressure on wage rates in the United States because of globalization.

  4. The world has a shortage of engineers. Around the world, schools are ramping up to educate engineers as the demand for this type of skill set is especially high.

  5. College degrees, in any field, remain valuable. Regardless of your field, a college degree will set you apart from people who lack a college degree. Let's say, you need a job - any job - and you're competing for a job in retail. If you have a four-year degree in political science or psychology against someone lacking a college degree, the odds are in your favor.

  6. You just might learn something. There is a lot to be said for the intrinsic value of knowledge. Much of what you learn in college you can learn elsewhere, but ask yourself this: how many people, who didn't go to college, have learned as much about their field as someone who did? You'll recognize that very few people ever learn as much outside of college as they would in it.

  7. College is fun. Really and truly, college is a wonderful experience for most people. Those who don't like it would almost certainly have enjoyed a different college experience had they found it. Thoughtfully, seek out the right college experience for you!

  8. It's never too late. If you are over 50, it may be too late to get much financial return on a college education, but virtually all of the other benefits may still apply.

Before you break the bank to get a college education, consider a few things. Some colleges and universities are extraordinarily expensive. Some are exceptionally poor and will not change your income potential. Most Americans, however, have access to relatively affordable college tuition at state schools. Community colleges are often downright cheap and offer a quality education that prepares students to finish a four-year degree at a university.

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