Snapshot: A look at education by the numbers

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College costs have escalated so much in recent years that it’s not uncommon to see articles debating whether a degree is worth it. That’s a very complex question that’s not easily captured by hard numbers. But here’s a range of data points that helps tell the story of education in this country, by the numbers:

19.3 million — The number of students who enrolled in college in 2010. This marks an increase of 11.5 percent from the pre-recession year of 2007. Graduate school enrollment jumped 19.3 percent, while the overall student population increased only 4.3 percent during the same period.

$26,349 — The median earnings for high school graduates in 2010. In comparison, the median earnings for bachelor’s degree holders was $47,422 (80 percent higher) and for graduate or professional degree holders was $62,618 (138 percent higher) during the same period.

1.6 million — The number of bachelor’s degrees earned in 2009. The top five fields of studies and their portion of total degrees earned were: business (21.7 percent), social sciences and history (10.5 percent), health professions and related clinical sciences (7.5 percent), education (6.4 percent), psychology (5.9 percent).

42 percent — The price increase of a 4-year undergraduate education at a public college from 1999-2000 academic year through 2009-10, after adjustment for inflation. For the 2009-10 academic year, the average annual cost for 4-year undergraduate tuition, room, and board were estimated to be $15,014 at public institutions and $32,790 at private institutions.

$54,300 — The national average salary of public elementary and secondary school teachers in the 2008-09 academic year. New York offered the highest salary of $69,100 among and South Dakota offered the lowest salary of $35,100.

$78,300 — The average salary for college faculty members in public institutions compared with $94,600 in private institutions (excluding religiously-affiliated colleges and universities) in the 2010-11 academic year.

Sources: U.S. Census Bureau, U.S. National Center for Education Statistics