Students discuss expectations on income after county college

BY DANIEL ENG
Acting Managing Editor

At County College of Morris, students have differing expectations on their income after college. For the first time in history, college-educated households earned half of the United States’ aggregate household income in 2012, according to the Pew Research Center, a nonpartisan fact tank that conducts public opinion polling and demographic research.

For some students, such as Christian Lyman, pursuing a college education is the means to an end.

“Education is secondary to the ability to make money with my degree,” Lyman said. “I didn’t come to college just solely to get educated. The point was to get more money, to get a job that will pay more money than past jobs.”

Lyman, who has not chosen a major yet, has been a truck driver for the past 15 years and said he does not want to have to continue driving for a living.

“When I’m through with college… I’m not necessarily looking for a huge jump in pay,” Lyman said. “Just more of a comfortable pay… Truck driving is a tough life, you have to be away from family and home a lot.”

Lyman, now 42, said his primary determinant for choosing a major will be the ability to function in the economy. A former Navy serviceman, Lyman also said that the necessity to attain a degree has changed since he first entered the workforce.

“As I got out of the military it became more of a push for sailors, soldiers and Marines alike to get degrees,” Lyman said. “Since I first went in, it’s become much more of a priority. It’s almost mandatory, everyone wants that four-year [degree] now.”

Theresa Davis, a human services major, said she chose her major based on her desire to help people.

“I know that social work isn’t a money-making field at all, but I’m not in it for the money, so I don’t care,” Davis said. “As long as I can live off my income and provide the basic essentials for my family, that’s all I need.”

This information sets a new precedent for college-educated households. Reasoning could lead to the conclusion that a college education would lead to higher pay, but this reasoning does not account for the jump that has been recorded.

In 1991, these same households took 37 percent of the aggregate U.S. household income, according to the Pew Research Center. At that time these households only made up a quarter of all U.S. households, making evident the possibility that an increase in numbers has led to a natural increase in accrued income. Households with a bachelor’s degree or more netted 49.7 percent of the total, almost one out of every $2 made. With one in every three households recorded as college educated, one-third of the population is now earning half of the income in the U.S.

Not everyone sees the numbers as an indicator of the value of a college education. Business administration major Matt Palumbo said he does not feel the value of a college education has anything to do with the increase.

“While college graduates are gaining a larger share of the economic pie, it’s mainly because there are more college graduates, not because a college education is becoming more valuable,” said Palumbo, citing a report from the Chronicle of Higher Education he said shows the value of a college degree to be diminishing.

College-educated households were the only households whose incomes grew on a per household basis from 1991 to 2012. Income increased nine percent from $92,289 to $100,637 for those with a bachelor’s degree, according to the Pew Research Center. On the other hand, household incomes declined for those who did not have at least a bachelor’s degree.

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