I didn’t graduate from college “cum laude”, but I did, like many others of my generation, graduated “thankulaude.”

We all know that what goes around, comes around, and I, like many other of Fairbanks’ “baby boomers” eventually had teenagers getting ready for college. Like my misspent youth, my kids (and probably yours), in their teen years, would rather be anywhere than in a classroom, in Fairbanks, in the winter. They really don’t understand why, after four years of high school, they should have to put in another four or more years of college.

That is a good question our kids ask and one that deserves more than a “Because I said so, that’s why!” response. Allow me please, to share with you a better response you can give your little scholars:

According to the US Census Bureau, average annual earnings from age 25 through age 64 ranged from $18,900 per year for high school dropouts to $25,900 per year for high school graduates. That high school diploma is worth $280,000 more income over the course of one’s 40-year working life!

College graduates average $45,400 per year, making a college degree worth $780,000 more in lifetime income than a high school diploma.

So, to my dear readers who are still in middle or high school, (and I know you read this column), how much is it worth to go to high school for four more years? Take your lifetime increase of $280,000, and divide it by the sum of four years x 180 days per year and you will see that over your working life, you will earn $388.89 for each day you attend high school.

Trust me on this one — no (legal) employer in Fairbanks will pay you that much for working the next four years. Your time in high school is more valuable to you than you think. Bottom line: stay in school! 

Maybe the Fairbanks North Star Borough School District should start an ad campaign with the theme “Average students wanted, salary $388.89 per day!”

Think what high school is worth if you are above average! 

Now for my high school readers who are still listening to what your parents are trying to tell you today: take your lifetime pay increase of $780,000 for a college degree and divide it by the amount of time you spend in a college class (the sum of four years times 170 days).

You will essentially get paid over $1,100 per day for each day you spend getting your degree! The pay gets even better when you divide that $1,100 day by the average four hours spent in your classes each day and you’ll realize that the average student’s average lifetime income for each hour of college is $286.76 per hour. 

There are no financial excuses for not taking your education as far as your brain will allow. All kinds of scholarships, Pell grants, and low interest student loans are available. Students often mistakenly believe that applying for financial aid is a complex and difficult process. They also commonly underestimate the extent to which they qualify for aid. However loans, while easy to get, may not be your best option. 

For the next several weeks I, and my colleague Jennifer Tilbury, UAF Community and Technical College director of student success, will share some tips on how to make the most of the college experience while minimizing the cost. For example, a truly unique way to help finance college besides financial aid and draining parent’s savings account is ... I am afraid that I am out of space for this week. Tune in next week.

Charlie Dexter is a professor of applied business emeritus. He may be reached by email at cndexter@alaska.edu. This column is provided as a public service by the UAF Community and Technical Colleges.