Not all college degrees or all college graduates are created equal, according to a new Brookings Institution brief.

On average, the benefits of a college degree outweigh their costs. However, in “Should Everyone Go to College?” Brookings senior fellow Isabel Sawhill and Stephanie Owen argue that it is important to compare the return on investment (ROI) by other variables, such as choice of major and college selectivity, in order to better assess whether or not a four-year degree will significantly improve a student’s future earnings.

“There is enormous variation in the so-called return to education depending on factors such as institution attended, field of study, whether a student graduates, and post-graduation occupation,” say the brief’s authors.

According to Sawhill and Owen, while the average return to obtaining a college degree is clearly positive, the authors emphasize that it is not universally so. For certain schools, majors, occupations, and individuals, college may not be a smart investment.

“By telling all young people that they should go to college no matter what, we are actually doing some of them a disservice,” they explain.

For the full infographic.

For the full brief [PDF]


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