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Going to college can be expensive. It can also set you up to get a better job and make more money. So how much more do graduates earn, and is college worth the cost?

In this lesson, students use systems of linear equations to compare how much people with different degrees will earn. Should you pursue an MBA, or take a full-time job right after high school? And is income what matters most, anyway? Students will discuss these questions and more.

Students will

  • Use tuition costs and median incomes to determine net income over time for various educational paths
  • Use strategies to solve systems of equations to determine when two paths will yield same net income
  • Use data points on a graph to calculate tuition costs and median income for an Associate’s Degree and an MBA
  • Compare lifetime earnings for various degree types (including high school diploma)
  • Discuss how and even whether income potential should affect decision of whether to attend college

Before you begin

Students should be able to calculate the slope between two points on a graph, and interpret its meaning for a given real-world context. Students should also be able to solve systems of linear equations using various strategies, including algebraic and graphical.

Common Core Standards

Content Standards
Mathematical Practices


John Green & Vlog Brothers, National Center for Educational Statistics,