Life Style

Higher education, a profitable investment?

At the time of choice, vertigo. Thousands of training courses are available to final year students, invited from Wednesday January 20 to register on Parcoursup. The time to choose studies, the time for questions also for these young people and their families, with a host of parameters to weigh the more and the less of each course: chances of success, appetite for the discipline, material constraints and also financial issues.

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Because studying can be very expensive, more and more expensive: limited to a few hundred euros per year for a license, a master’s or a doctorate at the university, the annual registration fees can exceed 10,000 € in school of business. Even if we stay below the sums required in many Anglo-Saxon universities, this constitutes a real fortune, to which are often added housing and daily living costs.

Also, naturally enough, the questions include “return on investment”. Is it worth the sometimes stratospheric spending? Are the most expensive or longest training courses a guarantee of better professional integration? A more fulfilling career? From a more comfortable salary level? These questions are all the more legitimate given that the Covid has weakened the budgets of many households.

The “diploma” effect

The answers are far from unequivocal. And each family will benefit from closely observing the opportunities of each training, by contacting the establishment or an association of alumni if ​​necessary. But surveys offer the big picture.

“In France, in 2019, among 25-34 year olds, 87% of higher education graduates were in employment, against 75% for those who had only the bac and 51% of people without any qualification”, notes Éric Charbonnier, education expert at the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

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The “diploma” effect is also observed in terms of salaries. “A young person who leaves the training system with a license earns on average 36% more than someone who stops with a baccalaureate. And those who obtain a bac + 5 earn at the beginning of their career 84% more than simple baccalaureate holders. “

“Greater fulfillment”

The OECD has also calculated the differences in income over an entire career according to the level of education, taking into account the cost of studies, the time of entry into employment, the probability of being unemployed or even more. tax paid by the highest paid workers. For a man with a higher education qualification compared to another without, the differential is on average € 157,000 in France, against € 186,000 in OECD member countries; for a woman, it is 167,000 € in France, against 150,000 € in this area.

“An impact that goes beyond the financial aspects”, insists Éric Charbonnier. “The level of education also translates into greater development and better involvement in society”, he recalls.

As pointed out by Arnaud Dupray, researcher at the Center for Studies and Research on Qualifications (Cereq), France, “With its very hierarchical conception of the education system”, attaches greater importance to the diploma than in other countries, such as Germany or Sweden, where lifelong learning is more developed.

A great evolution in just a little over half a century

By following successive cohorts of young people leaving the training system, Cereq notes that the spectrum of salaries after three years of working life has narrowed over the past two decades. Among young people who entered the labor market in 2013, non-graduates earned on average € 1,270, compared to € 2,530 for those with a doctorate. “On the other hand, the diploma has become even more necessary to enter and stay in employment”, he analyzes.

What an evolution in a little over half a century! “In the 1950s, one in two children did not continue beyond elementary school. Today, half of young people go beyond the license ”, notes Romain Delès, lecturer in sociology. This rise in qualification has its downside, called “downgrading”: many young people study longer than their parents without reaching an equivalent social position.

“The diploma is necessary but not always sufficient, he sums up. Because the increasing professionalization of the superior for twenty years, with for example the rise of the licenses and masters “pro” at the university, has not entirely borne fruit. “

“A line that counts on the CV”

“In our context of crisis, the diploma remains one of the best insurance for employability”, reacts Jean Charroin, Managing Director of Essca, an Angevin management school which has seven other campuses. “But parents must make sure that the targeted training offers international exposure and enough work experience”, he nuances. These criteria, like the starting salary of graduates, are taken into account in the main rankings, in particular that of the Financial Times, which is authoritative and which places 22 French management schools among the top 90.

Arguments which pushed Benjamin to join one of these establishments, in Reims, after a DUT. For this 23-year-old Parisian resident, this training is “A line that counts in the CV”. And much more than that. “We spend a year doing paid internships that can be found by relying on the network of the school and its alumni. And then there is the whole community life. I was able to organize an inter-school sports tournament. We had to manage alone the accommodation, the travel, the reservation of the grounds for more than 1000 people. A real experience to be valued during an interview. “

To finance these studies, Benjamin’s parents, who work in the civil service and real estate, postponed their retirement for three years. Other young people cannot count on such parental support. At Société Générale, it is reported that the amounts financed through student loans have increased by 60% in ten years. “The average loan is around € 20,000, and as long as he continues to study, the client only reimburses interest and insurance, explains Solène Le Her, product manager, consumer loans. It is mainly students from grandes écoles who approach us, but we also grant loans to university students, who need to finance their daily lives. “

The benefits of work-study

“It also happens that parents, considering that studies are neither a due nor a gift, lend their child enough to finance them or else they present this sum as an advance on an inheritance”, observes the child psychiatrist Patrice Huerre.

Other possibilities exist to finance studies – scholarships, jobs that usually occupies more than one in two students and which have become dramatically rare with the pandemic, leading to an increase in student insecurity. An increasing number of private establishments also set their prices according to family income.

Likewise, it is increasingly possible to carry out higher education at least partially in a work-study program. This is what Icam offers, an engineering school with six campuses in France. “This course allows those who follow it to pay for only two of the five years of study and to obtain the same diploma as the other students of the school, argues Alex Dufer, its deputy managing director. He offers great familiarity with the business world. Very often, moreover, the company that takes in a work-study student offers to hire him when he obtains his diploma. “

“All these questions deserve a real family discussion, continues the child psychiatrist Patrice Huerre. It is up to the parents to ensure that they support such a study project not for their own narcissistic gratification but because it serves the best interests of the child. “


“I am convinced that the investment is worth it”

Valerie, mother of a final year student in Paris

“Post-baccalaureate engineering schools, physics license… For my son, in his final year, and also for the whole family, filling in the study wishes on Parcoursup is quite stressful. At the same time, Louis will try to enter the Federal Polytechnic School of Lausanne, his dream. While tuition fees remain fairly modest, around € 1,400 per year, life there is very expensive. If it is taken, it will have consequences on the family budget, it may be necessary to reduce our vacation plans. But I am convinced that the investment is worth it. Last year, I accompanied Louis to the open days of this very famous public establishment. This allowed us to meet one of our acquaintances, a Frenchwoman who, after having completed this school in the architecture sector, is making a very comfortable living. Above all, she is given very high responsibilities. At barely 26, she was in charge of the construction of a building in Lausanne! “


Parcoursup, user manual

Starting January 20, final year students and students wishing a reorientation are invited to register on the platform. They have until March 11 to make their ten study wishes at most, with the possibility of sub-vows depending on the training and, if applicable, up to ten additional wishes concerning apprenticeship courses.

Every wish made is the subject of a “future sheet” with the opinion of the school head and the assessments of the teachers, as part of the class council for the second term.

By April 8, candidates must have finalized their file by validating each of their wishes and providing the training with the requested elements.



A book. Guide to career ideas, by Sandrine Pouverreau, ill. El Don Guillermo, Ed. Bayard, 2018, € 19.90 This book, nourished by testimonies, allows you to explore a multitude of career paths. With for each profession, a focus on the course to follow, the salary level, career development, the necessary qualities …

A file. Objective sup, Onisep, Dec. 2020, 384 p., € 9.90 A very broad presentation of higher education courses, courses and establishments. What to facilitate the choices according to his profile and his project.

A website. The Phosphore site offers school files, job files and tests to determine, for example, if you are made for an engineering school or if you have the right profile to study in a work-study program. Phosphore also offers coaching sessions, face-to-face, by Skype, or by phone.

A program. “The over-graduates”, Being and knowing, France culture, January 25 at 9 pm (and in podcast) Holders of a bac + 5 are more and more numerous. Their cultural and school codes change but remain dominant. They most often marry each other. They are investing more and more in professional fields, sometimes far from their studies, such as crafts or catering. Does this “middle class of the diploma” live in its bubble or does it change France to its taste and its image? With Monique Dagnaud and Jean-Laurent Cassely, authors of Over-educated generation (Ed. Odile Jacob).


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