Even at a time when paying for college has become a lifetime endeavor for the average Americans, having a college degree is still a worthwhile investment, according to a new study published by Georgetown University's Center on Education and the Workforce.
College tuition and fees have increased 1,120 percent since records began in 1978, far outpacing the price inflation of consumer goods, medical expenses and food, according to Bloomberg. Sky-rocketing tuition and fees pushed up the national student loan debt to more than $1 trillion, surpassing credit cards in consumer debt.
"It's a tough job market for college graduates," said study co-author Anthony P. Carnevale. "but far worse for those without a college education."
When the Great Recession began in December 2007, employment gains of a decade were lost, sending January 2010 employment down to August 1999 levels.
The Great Recession was the longest recession since World War II and recovery from it has been slow. By early 2012, only about half of the jobs lost during the recession had been regained and job creation is still insufficient to move the unemployment rate below 8 percent.
However, as millions of jobs vanished, the number of people with bachelor's degrees who had jobs did not decline and some high-education fields even had job gains.
At the same time, nearly four out of every five jobs destroyed by the recession were held by workers with a high school diploma or less.
Even as employment rose during the recovery, people who did not go to college continued to lose ground, shedding 200,000 jobs from early 2010 to early 2012.
The study, based on data collected by the Census Bureau and the Bureau of Labor Statistics, divided the nation's work force of 140 million people into three groups: those who did not go to college, those with some college education or an associate degree, and those with at least a bachelor's degree.
The U.S. economy so far has gained 3.4 million jobs since the recovery began. Despite the gains, the economy still remains 3 percentage points short of its prerecession employment.
All of the post-recession recovery in the job market has gone to workers with education beyond high school, with greater job gains made by those with Bachelor's degrees or better.
Since job growth resumed in early 2010 with the end of the recession, employment by those with a Bachelor's degree or better has increased by 2 million, while employment by those with an Associate's degree or some college experience has increased by 1.6 million.
Those with some college education or an Associate's degree have recovered nearly 91 percent of jobs lost during the recession, but are still short of their prerecession employment levels.
Meanwhile, those with only a high school diploma or less continue to experience job losses, though in much smaller numbers.
"In part this is due to the financial bubble that created a corresponding bubble in housing and construction jobs," the report said.