Despite the rising price tag of higher education, getting a degree after high school is still a good investment for Coloradans, according to a new report released by the Colorado Department of Higher Education on Tuesday.
"Colorado Rises: Maximizing Value for Students and our State" found that people with some kind of post-high school credential — either a certificate, associate or bachelor's degree — make more money over time compared to people with only a high school diploma.
The report also broke down median wages by degree program and found that student debt among public university graduates is decreasing.
Median wages for graduates ranged from $32,000-$37,400 after one year on the job and increased to $50,100-$60,400 after 10 years.
According to data from the Census Bureau, the median income of someone with only a high school diploma was between $18,162-$31,337 in 2007 and increased to $20,199-$35,276 in 2017.
The report also broke down median earnings after one, five and 10 years by degree programs. Across all types of degrees, the most lucrative programs were business, health, trades and science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).
The report was well-received by Colorado Mesa University officials, said spokesman David Ludlam, and its findings line up with the university's current efforts to offer a variety of degrees and bolster STEM programs.
"Even beyond the value identified in the state report, the value of education at CMU is further enhanced based on a dual mission that includes Western Colorado Community College alongside creative partnerships," Ludlam said.
Programs like the engineering program partnership with University of Colorado and a new associate degree track for School District 51 students are a few of the ways students at CMU can obtain degrees that are in demand, Ludlam said.
And while the cost of college tuition is rising and Colorado's funding for public higher education lags behind the national average, student debt has slowly decreased in recent years.
Average debt for associate degree graduates has decreased from $14,900 to $13,300, and bachelor's degree debt has decreased from $26,900 to $25,500.
The inaugural report will be published every year under House Bill 18-2226, which requires the department to produce an annual return on investment report for degree programs at public colleges and universities.