Fed Confirms: Even A Couple Years Of College Is Better Than Nothing

Obtaining a post-secondary education has long been seen as the gateway to a better future. However, with so many degree options available – four-year bachelor’s degree or two-year associate degree, just to name a few – consumers may not know what to look for when it comes to the best return on investment.

A New York Federal Reserve Bank Study found that both associates and four-year degrees remain solid investments for college-bound consumers, the Wall Street Journal reports.

NYFRB economists found that the return on investment for college graduates has held constant at about 15% for the past decade.

Likewise, they found the difference in wages between bachelor’s and associate degrees to be relatively constant. A bachelor’s degree holder currently makes about $65,800 annually, while an associate degree holder makes about $46,300.

While the new study reinforces the idea that a four-year degree will mean earning more in the future, states that are combing through degree data of public colleges have found that two-year degrees are sometimes a better bet for higher wages right out of school.

Researchers found some associate degrees in technical fields, specifically those related to the medical industry, out-earn those of four-year degrees.

According to the WSJ, figures in Indiana show that a year in the workforce for a graduate of Ivy Tech Community College on average makes more than a similar graduate at Indiana University.

The state’s first return on investment report last year found the average salary for a graduate with an associate degree was more than that of a bachelor’s degree-holder after a year in the workforce. However, over time, the four-year degree holder began to surpassed his counterpart five years after graduation, with the gap continuing to grow to nearly $7,000 annually after 10 years.

In Colorado, the figures are much the same. A graduate with a two-year nursing degree from Front Range Community College reported her degree cost $23,000 and her starting wage was $53,000. She says the hospital she works for doesn’t increase salary of four-year degree holders any faster than those with two-year degrees.

Regardless of whether a consumer chooses a two-year associate degree or a four-year bachelor’s degree, they are already better off than consumers who don’t attend college.

Wages for high-school graduates have been falling, which only helps keep the earnings premium for a college degree near its all-time high, the WSJ reports.

Surprising Findings on Two-Year vs. Four-Year Degrees [The Wall Street Journal]

by Ashlee Kieler via Consumerist

Someone Returned $500,000 Taken In Wells Fargo Robbery: FBI Doesn’t Know Who

robbersLast week, two masked robbers hit a Wells Fargo branches in Wheat Ridge, Colorado. Police believe the same pair robbed a different branch in January. They were verbally abusive toward bank staff, threatened them with handguns, and entered the vaults, taking $500,000 in the second robbery and $1 million in the first. This week, something strange happened: someone brought a third of the money back.

The question is: who, and why? An attorney brought a bag to the local outpost of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, claiming not to know what was inside. It turned out to be $500,000 from one of the robberies.

The special agent in charge told local media that it doesn’t appear that the suspects suddenly grew consciences and sent the money back. The FBI believes that someone, maybe a relative, found the money and sent it back. “I think very likely what happened is that [the robbers] stored [the cash] somewhere and possibly a family member found it and thought, ‘Oh my God, I need to bring this to the authorities so it can get back to the rightful owners.’”

Authorities believe that the same men are behind the two robberies this year, since the suspects and the robberies themselves were so similar. Wells Fargo is offering $50,000 for information leading to their arrest.

Returned $500,000 In Bank Robbery Money Adds Odd Twist [CBS Denver]

by Laura Northrup via Consumerist

Limeade Oreos Will Be Your Refreshing Summer Cookie

Can’t get enough refreshing fruit-flavored Oreos? Have you made your way through lemon, watermelon, and fruit punch flavored sandwich cookies, and you’re ready to try a new (but not terribly different) flavor? Great news! Limeade Oreos are here.

For most people, this is just a strange expansion of the ever-stranger Oreoscape. Don’t worry: it’s a limited-time flavor like so many other seasonal Oreos. Most likely, it will taste like butter cookie and citrus, just like its lemon Oreo cousin.

Some limited-time flavors are exclusive to a specific store (generally, Walmart.) While these cookies were sighted at Meijer, that doesn’t mean they are an exclusive.

SPOTTED ON SHELVES – Nabisco Limited Edition Limeade Oreo Cookies [The Impulsive Buy]

by Laura Northrup via Consumerist

Food Companies Not Bragging About Making Products Healthier Out Of Fear You’ll Reject Change

Change can be terrifying. Just ask my brother, who ran screaming at a young age when my formerly straight-haired mom came home with a perm. That kind of reaction is exactly why the companies behind Boston Market, Hamburger Helper and even McDonald’s don’t always go bragging to customers when they change products to make them healthier — they’re worried about rejection, just like the rest of us.

Even while consumers are putting the heat on companies to churn out healthier products, those businesses are worried that if they announce they’re cutting calories, reducing salt or skimping on fat, customers will get mad at the change, reports the Wall Street Journal.

Thus, the idea of “stealth health,” as some in the industry call it.

“When you tell people something’s healthy, they think it doesn’t taste good,” Sara Bittorf, chief brand officer of Boston Market Corp. told WSJ.

That company didn’t blare its healthy changes last year, cutting down on sodium in certain menu items but staying mum about it until after the food seemed accepted by consumers.

Executives at the rotisserie-chicken restaurant chain didn’t advertise their efforts in the fourth quarter of last year to cut sodium in mashed potatoes, stuffing and other menu items at its 460 outlets until February—after the items appeared to have been accepted by consumers.

They’re not the only ones — Kraft kept quiet about taking trans fats out of Oreos in 2006 for fear of customer backlash. And General Mills’ customers didn’t want lower sodium in Hamburger Helper so the company didn’t tell consumers about sodium cuts it made by substituting ingredients in like garlic, onion, tomato and spices.

Then there’s McDonald’s. It took the company years to finally settle on its current blend of frying oil, because it made the mistake of preemptively advertising the change, prompting customers to complain that the fries tasted different… before any actual change was made.

Of course, it depends on the product — if you’re already marketing something as a health item with benefits like low-sodium, those customers will expect things like… lower sodium. But you mess with our indulgent items and you’re going to have a problem.

“Consumers say they want healthier products, but they don’t want to compromise on taste,” General Mills’ company’s chief health and wellness officer Maha Tahiri noted of things like the Hamburger Helper sodium situation. “It takes multiple months, if not years, to get the right equation between taste and health.”

And it’s not easy to simply tell a consumer you want them to be healthy, say the folks at Boston Market. They found that out when trying to tackle the sodium situation, and experimented with removing salt shakers from dining tables in 2012 and moving them to the beverage station.

“We had people say, ‘Don’t tell me not to salt my food,’ ” Boston Market’s Bittorf explained.

Despite that, the chain kept salt shakers off the tables and just waited until complaints died down, which they have for the most part, she added.

Some customers say they’d like to know when things change, including one who said he would’ve like to have known he was eating less sodium, because he’s on medication for high cholesterol and high blood pressure.

“I probably wouldn’t have changed what I eat,” he said. “I’d just feel better about eating it.”

From Oreos to Hamburger Helper: What’s Behind the Recipe Change [Wall Street Journal]

by Mary Beth Quirk via Consumerist

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