The college degree premium

The college degree premium

The number of Americans who attend college has nosedived in recent years – down 7% nationally since fall of 2019 and a full 10% for freshmen. The decline has been especially steep at community colleges, which offer two-year associates degrees that can be an important ladder into the middle class. Washington Post columnist Catherine Rampell reports that the decline could have long-term economic consequences, as a college degree continues to pay off in higher lifetime earnings. 

According to the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, schools that primarily offer associate’s degrees provide a median return of $141,000 after a decade, and $723,000 over 40 years. Among those that primarily offer bachelor’s degrees, the return is lower in the short run, because tuition expenses are higher, but greater over the long term: $864,000 over 40 years. Beyond the individual benefits that accrue to degree holders, the U.S. economy needs more workers with postsecondary educations.

Louisiana is not a safe place to live
Louisiana is the least safe state in the nation according to a new study from WallletHub, but the numbers tell a complex story. The Pelican state received its dubiously dangerous ranking despite being in the top five in law enforcement employees per capita. Louisiana also ranked 49th in emergency preparedness, an alarming spot for a state that faces threats from ever-intensifying storms and other deadly effects of climate change. WalletHub’s Adam McCann breaks down the entire study:

With every new headline about a mass shooting, terrorist attack, hate crime or natural disaster, many of us fear for our safety and that of our loved ones. In the past few years, the COVID-19 pandemic has also become one of Americans’ biggest safety concerns. Although vaccines have greatly diminished that threat in 2022, there have still been over 204,000 deaths from COVID-19 this year. To put that in perspective, that’s several times more than the number of motor vehicle deaths (21,000) and non-suicide gun-related deaths (15,200) in 2022 combined. This goes to show that how worried we feel about a threat isn’t necessarily proportional to how many people it affects.

A coastal settlement
Twelve South Louisiana parishes will divide $100 million over the next 22 years as part of a settlement with Freeport McMoran to compensate for damage the oil and gas company did to the state’s fragile coast. The settlement was first reached in 2019 but had been stalled because four coastal parishes refused to sign off on the deal. The Advocate’s Tristan Baurick explains how it will work: 

Freeport will make an initial payment of $15 million and additional payments of $4.25 million each in 2023 and 2024. The remaining $76.5 million would be tied to reimbursements from the sale of environmental credits. The deal gives Freeport preferred status from the sale of environmental credits related to projects funded with its settlement. Also called carbon credits, these financial instruments are generated by projects that cut greenhouse-gas emissions, such as tree plantings or marsh restorations. Credits can be used to offset an owner’s other pollution-causing endeavors or the credits can be sold to other companies.

Federal relief shields Obamacare premium increases
Premiums for Affordable Care Act policies will rise for the first time in four years, but most people will be shielded from the increase because of enhanced federal subsidies that were extended by Congress. The enhanced subsidies kept 64,000 Louisianans from losing coverage during the pandemic and will keep insurance affordable for more than 100,000 low-and middle-income residents. CNN’s Tami Luhby reports

The subsidies were originally enhanced for two years as part of the Democrats’ $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief plan, which passed in March 2021. It made two changes to the subsidies to address long-standing complaints that Obamacare plans are not affordable for many people, particularly the middle class. Enrollees now pay no more than 8.5% of their income toward coverage, down from nearly 10%. And lower-income policyholders can receive subsidies that eliminate their premiums. Also, those earning more than 400% of the federal poverty level are eligible for help for the first time.

Number of the Day
900,000 – Increase in number of disabled workers in America since February 2020. Long Covid seems to have led to this surge. (Source: Federal Reserve Bank of New York)