Average college degree pays off by age 34

CNNMoney Op-Ed: An alternative to the student debt crisis
CNNMoney Op-Ed: An alternative to the student debt crisis

If you're debating the value of your college degree, rest assured it will likely be worth the cost -- eventually.

It takes an average of 12 years to recoup the cost of getting your Bachelor's degree, according to a new report from The College Board.

In other words, you will have earned enough money to repay the cost of your degree and make up for your time out of the workforce by the age of 34.

If that seems like a long time, consider this: college grads with a full-time job earned a median of 67% more than high school grads last year. That doesn't include those who went on to receive an advanced degree.

Related: Just how much better off are college grads anyway?

And despite the horror stories of over-educated Millennials having a hard time landing a job, the unemployment rate for 25- to 34-year-olds with a Bachelor's degree was 2.6% last year, more than five percentage points below the unemployment rate for those with just a high school education.

College grads are also more likely to exercise, vote, and less likely to smoke, according to the report.

"A higher education is an investment that pays dividends over the course of a lifetime -- even for students who accumulate some debt to obtain a degree," said Jennifer Ma, senior policy research scientist at the College Board.

The average undergraduate student loan borrower left school last year with $30,100 in debt.

Related: 4 steps to paying of $100,000 in student debt

Of course, not everyone will be able to recoup the cost of their degree by the age of 34. The report assumes that you graduated in four years, paid an interest rate of 4.3% on your loans, and finished paying off your debt in 10 years.

Meanwhile, just 60% of college students finish their degree within six years. Private loans come with much higher interest rates, and it might take you longer to pay off your debt if you started in an income-drive repayment plan.

The median income for 30- to 34-year-olds is $40,944 for those with a Bachelor's degree and $31,807 for those with no higher than a high school diploma, according to the report.

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