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Report: Earnings gap narrows

October 17, 2013

Even though the earnings gap is narrowing between college and high school graduates, according to a recent College Board report, college graduates enjoy the benefits of a well-rounded education.

The “2013 Educations Pays: The Benefits of Higher Education for Individuals and Society” report details the value of higher education. One major point the College Board makes is that the earnings gap between bachelor’s degree and high school graduates has narrowed.

In 2008, males ages 25 to 34 with bachelor’s degrees made 74 percent more than male’s who only graduated from high school, compared to the gap in 2011, which was 69 percent. In 2008, women ages 25 to 34 with bachelor’s degrees made 79 percent more than female’s who only graduated from high school, while the gap in 2011 was 70 percent, according to the report.

However, the report mentions that after age 34, people with bachelor’s degrees begin to make significantly more money. UW-River Falls Director of Admissions Mark Meydam agreed that many college graduates begin to see higher earnings in their 30s, 40s and 50s.

“If you really dig into the data behind the scenes, it’s clear that additional education after high school of any type, it does not have to be a bachelor’s degree, leads to better opportunities,” Meydam said.

Meydam also said that UWRF offers a liberal arts education, not just job training for a specific skill set.

“The whole idea of a liberal arts education is to take you to a higher level of thinking, of understanding, of learning,” Meydam said.

AFAB Chair Bobbi O’Brien agreed with Meydam that higher education teaches students much more than what is learned in classes. She noted that the social aspect of college is important to becoming well-rounded citizens.

“You learn a lot about yourself,” O’Brien said. ”You really grow as a person.”

Director of Career Services Melissa Wilson said that students should focus on developing their employability early in their college careers. Different experiences such as internships, part-time jobs, volunteer opportunities and informational interviews are some of the ways students can increase their chances at being hired once they graduate.

“It is students who focus on their career development early and often that are most successful in receiving job offers prior to graduation,” Wilson said.

One term that the Chronicle of Higher Education mentions in its article about the College Board report is “mal-employment,” which means that college graduates are working at jobs that do not require college degrees. According to the article, more than 36 percent of recent college graduates are mal-employed, but the situation is usually temporary.

Kyle Thurmes graduated from UWRF in May and is currently mal-employed at two local restaurants. He hopes to have a job related to his major by the end of December, before he needs to start paying off student loans. He did not expect to be hired before graduating.

“I knew it was going to take longer than I wanted to,” Thurmes said.

Wilson said that there is an abundance of qualified applicants which increases the competition for jobs after graduation. However, she said that certain factors could push one applicant to front of the competition.

“College graduates who have relevant experiences, have studied abroad and have volunteered may fare better in their job searches,” Wilson said. “They have developed skills and have experiences that employers are looking for,” Wilson said.