Does It Pay to Go to College

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Does it pay to go to college? That's a rude question, of course. It's a question parents don't want to ask if they've just written the big checks. Nor do students want to ask it if they've just borrowed the money for their next semester. If you check the College Board's Web site (.pdf file), you'll find a reassuring study indicating that education really does pay. Without considering the intangibles, the study says each additional level of education draws a higher lifetime income. While the median high school graduate age 25 and older earns $26,300, the median college graduate age 25 and older earns $42,200. That's an annual income premium of $15,500, or 59%. Not bad, particularly when you consider that the difference also allows you to escape doing heavy lifting. * Talk back: Do you think a college education is worth the money? Yes, the college grad will spend years paying off her loans. But eventually her earnings net of loan payments will pull ahead of the high school graduate's. So, case closed. It may hurt to write the checks, or borrow, but college pays. Well, maybe not. According to the College Board, it takes 14 long years before the four-year college grad's income, net of loan payments, starts to beat what the high school grad earns. During all those 14 years, college doesn't pay. High school pays. More from MSN Money * Your 5-minute guide to college costs * Simple ways to make college cheaper * The best values in private colleges * The 50 best values in public colleges * 6 reasons not to save for your kids' college The real question is not which choice pays on an annual basis, but which choice pays on a lifetime basis? Which choice permits a higher lifetime living standard? That's a question the board conveniently doesn't ask or answer. Tuition inflation runs deep The answer depends on the costs of borrowing and

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