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Investment Comparison: College versus Car?

College vs. Car

U.S. Auto Loan Amounts Outpace Student Debt, But Fail to Deliver Similar Long-Term Value for Americans

Asset Values, Costs Vary Widely Over Short, Long Term

Michigan’s Independent Colleges and Universities (MICU) today released its comparison of U.S. automotive debt to student loan debt, and the results are striking.

Michigan's independent colleges & universities enroll a growing number of Pell Grant recipients

pell over time

Pell Grants are federal need-based student grants that help students with financial need pay for college. The share of students with Pell Grants is typically an indicator of how accessible an institution is for students from a diverse array of family income situations.

As the economic landscape of Michigan has shifted, a greater number of students are in-need of aid. Independent colleges and universities have responded to student needs and are accessible to students of all income levels.

More women in STEM fields at independent institutions

women in stem

In 2016, approximately 60,000 bachelor's degrees were awarded by four-year colleges and universities in Michigan. At both public and private, nonprofit institutions, about 35 percent of these degrees are in STEM fields including mathematics, biology, engineering, health sciences, physical sciences, and computer sciences.

While the share of overall STEM degrees awarded is the same for both public and private institutions, the share of those degrees earned by women is dramatically different.

Bachelor's degree: 11:1 return on investment in just five years

BA vs. car

Earning a college degree is a long-term financial investment that also provides benefits in the short-term. 

Income trajectories are strong for those with at least a bachelor’s degree compared to those who do not have one. Typical starting earnings in the U.S. for someone with a bachelor’s degree hover around $33,000 annually and this average grows each year a person with a degree is working and gaining more experience.

A bachelor's degree requires less in loans than a car

auto debt vs. student debt

Automotive debt is at an all-time high with the average outstanding debt per auto loan at close to $33,000, about the cost of a nicely-equipped Chevy Malibu. However, there is no public outcry about the rising amount of automotive loan debt.

Low-income students in MI choose 4-year degrees over 2-year degrees

low-income student enrollment by sector

Obtaining a 4-year degree is essential for long-term success in today's economy. The Independent Indicators issue from March 6, 2018 highlights the $18,000 annual average wage premium for those with a 4-degree compared to a 2-year degree in Michigan.

Do Michigan's students recognize this difference and select a more valuable degree?

Independent colleges are more efficient than public universities

students per employee

Higher education institutions in Michigan are run with varying levels of efficiency. One way to measure efficiency is calculating the number of students per full-time employee.

Comparing independent, non-profit colleges and universities in Michigan highlights that independent higher education institutions are able to run more efficiently than their public counterparts.

Workers with a bachelor's degree earn more in Michigan

earnings by ed attainment

Individuals with a bachelor's degree earn nearly twice as much as those with only a high school diploma and 50 percent more than individuals who have some college or an associate's degree. A bachelor's degree matters for earnings and Michigan's economy.

Earning a bachelor's degree is associated with higher earnings, economic security, health, and other positive outcomes. But how much greater is the typical income for those with a bachelor's degree compared to those who do not have one in Michigan?

Nearly half of STEM grads go into a different career

STEM grad career field

Many students do not go into a career related to their college major. Nationally, 48 percent of STEM-trained college grads go into a non-STEM career field.

Research studies have found that a bachelor's degree, in any area of study, is important for future earnings and career growth. Data shows that many college graduates go into a career field that is not directly related to their undergraduate major.


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