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Stephen Colbert: You're Wrong, Sir, About Bachelor's Degrees

Sep 14, 2011

A bachelor's degree is worthless? That's what Stephen Colbert of The Colbert Report joked during his show on September 13, 2011. Maybe it's not worth what it used to be, but worthless? We beg to differ. Without further ado, Study.com's open letter to one Mr. Stephen Colbert.

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Dear Stephen,

We here at Study.com are all big fans of your show. That's why it was hard to hear you say that a bachelor's degree 'qualifies you for nothing' on last night's episode. Whether it was really you saying that or if it was your alter ego, 'Stephen Colbert,' we beg to differ.

Stephen Colbert

Granted, there's been some buzz lately about master's degrees being the new bachelor's and CEOs who are more interested in real-world experience, but we don't need Al Gore or Paul Krugman to tell us that a bachelor's degree is still the single best and most reliable way to increase your lifetime earnings.

Don't believe us? Let's look at you. According to Wikipedia, the undisputed source of truth (and truthiness), you studied acting at Northwestern University. A bachelor's degree in theatre? Talk about worthless. But look where it led you: opportunities at Second City, forging connections with rising comedians like Steve Carrell, joining the Daily Show and spring-boarding from there to your very own news show.

But okay, we accept that your typical doe-eyed theatre major is not as talented, funny and, let's admit, handsome as you, so maybe you're just an exception to the rule, the anomaly in the never-ending disaster that is bachelor's degree programs in the United States. So let's take a closer look.

According to the US Department of Education, bachelor's degrees are hugely valuable in earnings alone. In 2009, a man with just a high school diploma earned $32,900 per year while his neighbor with a bachelor's degree earned $51,000. Almost $20,000 more per year? We can live with that. Women don't fare as well, but a woman with a bachelor's degree still earns over $15,000 more per year than her neighbor who just has a high school diploma. Think of all the WristStrong bracelets you could buy with that kind of cash!

As the chart below indicates (data courtesy of cnn.com), folks with bachelor's degrees are holding up better in the current economy as well. Regardless of who you blame for the current unemployment rate, you can't deny that college graduates are faring better!

Unemployment rate chart

But earning a bachelor's degree isn't just about the money. You made lifelong connections while acting your heart out at Northwestern, and today 's students do the same. They network, learn how to think, master valuable skills and go on to host the top news source for one-third of the American public. Not too shabby for a guy with a bachelor's degree in theatre, don't you think?

In conclusion, Mr. Colbert, while we acknowledge your honorary doctorate in fine arts from Knox College, we think you'll agree that your bachelor's degree is what's really paying the bills.

Sincerely,

Study.com Nation

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