Is A Bachelor's Degree Really Worth The Cost [Infographic]?

undergraduate degree cost valueAs the cost of higher education has escalated in recent years, there's been no shortage of debate about whether the cost of a four-year college degree is worth the expense -- especially given the current sluggish labor market.

The average cost for in-state tuition and fees at four-year public colleges averages $8,244 for the 2011-12 school year, 8.3 percent more than last year, according to a recently released report by the College Board. Tuition and fees at private four-year colleges rose by 4.5 percent to an average $28,500 for the 2011-12 school year.

Despite the ballooning cost, advocates for higher education contend that a college degree is worth the expense, resulting in total lifetime earnings that are about $1 million more than for those with a high-school diploma.

Further, as employers demand more and more workers with special skills, having a bachelor's degree can help U.S. workers better compete in an increasingly global, technologically centered economy, according to an entry at the Knowledge@Wharton blog, published by the University of Pennsylvania Wharton School.

Few people dispute the economic value of at least some post-high school education, since incomes can rise sharply with further schooling, the blog notes. At issue is who is best served by a four-year college experience and what the viable alternatives should be.

"There isn't one way to the finish line," according to Wharton marketing professor Eric Bradlow. "The educational system should provide a broad set of opportunities."

For more facts on the worth of a college degree in today's economy, check out these insights from Rasmussen College, a career-focused, private college that emphasizes in-demand degree programs:

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