With an economy in recovery and a job market harder to enter than Fort Knox, many are questioning the true value of college these days. For African-Americans and Hispanic Americans this question is particularly important. Both groups suffer the brunt of the unemployment problem in this country. According to the latest Bureau of Labor Statistics report the national unemployment rate is 7.5 however the unemployment rate for African-Americans is 13.2 and for Hispanics it is 9.1.
Also many people within the African and Hispanic American population are currently working jobs that do not require college degrees. Employed Hispanic Americans in particular are much less likely to have a college degree than other racial groups. The Department of Labor estimates that only one in six employed Latinos aged 25 and over have completed a bachelor’s degree, and of the employed African American population only 25% hold a Bachelor’s degree. Both racial groups trail white employed Americans by a large percentage. Therefore many minorities have begun to question the value of education.
However, there is another way to look at this situation. These numbers fail to take into account the jobs that are currently unavailable to both unemployed and employed members of these racial groups because they lack a degree. It is important to take into account that nationally the unemployment rate for college graduates is roughly half of the unemployment rate for high school graduates.
There is also a large monetary incentive to attend college. A recent Pew Research Center analysis estimates that the typical adult with a bachelor’s degree (and no further education) will earn $1.42 million over a 40-year career, compared with $770,000 for a typical high school graduate. This is a $650,000 earning gap, and when adjusted for the cost of college debt and education comes out to a net gap of $550,000. So even in our current economy, for most, it pays to go to college.
These statistics hold mostly true for Hispanic and African-American populations as well. African-Americans with a Bachelors degree have an unemployment rate of roughly seven percent, and make nearly twice as much money. The unemployment rate for Hispanic Americans with a Bachelors degree is 5.7 percent, and they too stand to make significantly higher incomes with a degree than without.
The key is ensuring that minorities are given the opportunity to attend affordable institutions in in-demand fields such as nursing, and IT. All things considered, college is an investment in ones’ future. As with all investments there is a risk factor, but now more than ever it is important that minorities continue to take and pursue this risk, and further pursue their education.