PATH TO SUCCESS

What's the Value of a College Degree?

High-school students are typically told that a college degree will earn them $800,000 extra in their lifetime. But new analysis shows that that information is not accurate, and that a college degree may not be as valuable as it was once hailed to be. Mark Schneider, a vice president of the American Institutes for Research, said the calculation is "a million-dollar misunderstanding." He pointed out that account deductions and student-loan debt are not taken into consideration, and that the income used for the Census estimates were from 1999, when tuition was more than $10,000 less per year. In his own estimates, Dr. Schneider calculated a lifetime-earnings average for college graduates of $279,893, a far cry from the $800,000 figure that the College Board puts on its Web site. "Averages don't tell the whole story," said president of the Institute for College Access & Success Lauren Asher. "The truth is that no one can predict for you exactly what you're going to earn," she says.