{popin}My younger brother let me listen a few tracks of an album by popular hip-hop artist, Kanye West one day when I was in his car. On the few tracks I listened to, Kanye was basically poking fun of the fact that a growing number of college graduates emerge with nothing more than a retail job at the mall and have not become more marketable. But they could still be proud because, after all, they still have their degree.

Does West have a point? Is it really worth the effort of going through four years of college? Will college graduates be able to reasonably justify the costs of higher education, and if so when? And if it isn’t worth it, at what point in tuition level does it become worth it? Statistics show that tuition rates have risen by 439% since 1982, far surpassing the inflation rate. Even with all the recent uproar about fuel prices, it still is not even half of the increase in tuition. In addition to this, federal grants have consistently been decreasing while students and parents of students continue to take on huge amounts of debt to either land that raise or higher-paying job.

Studies have consistently shown that people who posess 4-year degrees earn roughly 25% more than those without an advanced degree. So if the normal work career spans 40 years, then a person who earns, on average, $40,000 without a degree could have earned $50,000 with one. This means that over a 40-year period, they would have earned $400,000 more. This would, in-turn, affect other factors like the amount you are able to save for retirement. So what is my advice to you as you weigh in on all the options?

Real Rewards

There are some rewards that cannot be accounted for in a checking account. We call them intrinsic rewards. The sense of satisfaction and self-worth that comes from completing coursework toward a degree and the joy of learning could be worth more to one person than another. So even if you aren’t receiving a huge raise after earning that degree, you may still want to pursue it.

Have It Your Way

With the amount of online graduate programs and schools that are making provisions for working adults, pursuing a master’s degree is becoming easier to do. It may be a good idea to see what your current employer can offer in the form of employee benefits when it comes to this. Tuition Reimbursement, many times, has stipulations attached such as a minimum grade or even the amount of time you must continue with the company after your degree is earned. Make sure to read the fine print or you being stuck with a hefty price tag.

Do The Math

Just like the example given above, you should crunch the numbers and see if it is financially beneficial for you to embark toward this educational pursuit. What we didn’t discuss, however, is the time it takes to recoup that investment. If you don’t see a financial return on your investment toward education for 15 years, you may want to consider whether or not its beneficial to move forward. Depending on your personal goals and preferences, this number could range widely.