Data visualization answers critical question: Is college still worth it?

The US presidential election – to be held on Tuesday November 6 – is quickly encroaching on the global media’s agenda. The race to the White House has been reinvigorated by an inspired and energetic first presidential debate performance by former Massachusetts governor and Republican candidate, Mitt Romney; with incumbent Barack Obama producing a relatively listless showing.

Only a few weeks prior, crucial polls in key battleground states indicated that President Obama had already grabbed a cold one from the beer fridge, and begun constructing his acceptance speech for a second and final term.

But, political pundits predicted Romney’s reemergence, and have since flagged that Obama has a furious fight ahead of him if he wants to cling to the land of opportunity’s top job.

The subsequent presidential, and vice presidential, debates should provide a fascinating spectacle, with dialogue continuing to revolve around a spluttering economy and its impact on short-term livelihoods and longer term socio-political developments.

One of the emergent arguments discusses the need to nurture a skilled workforce to attract more foreign investment and encourage innovative organizations to set-up shop stateside.

Luring investment, and re-inventing America as a mecca for technology and value-add based businesses, requires a stringent focus on educational excellence – a fact that both sides of politics at least theoretically espouse.

But, with annual tuition fees rising four times faster than general inflation rates over the past 25 years, is America’s current college system discouraging the construction of a skilled workforce?

Perhaps unsurprisingly, an astounding 75 percent of Americans now believe that tuition is simply unaffordable, with almost half (48%) of 18 – 34 year-olds citing expense as the reason for not going to college.

So what’s the incentive to complete a college education?

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Aside from four fanatical years of fraternizing, hobnobbing and networking, the bottom line is that college graduates earn an average of $821,956 more than high school graduates over the length of a career – from graduation until age 65.

Now it’s just up to Romney or Obama to make sure that the quality of college education reflects the price tag.