By Ben Schiller
At a time of inflation-busting tuition fees, reduced government support, and chronic unemployment, college isn't seen as the surefire investment it used to be. Some have suggested students strike out on their own, or consider non-traditional alternatives, like Massively Open Online Courses.
This visualization shows the enduring value of education, however--at least in the aggregate. The winner of an Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development challenge, it plots the costs and returns of higher and secondary ed, both for individuals and taxpayers, and allows you to compare the U.S. with plenty of its competitors.
This graphic shows the value of education to individuals (red) and to the public (green) for men in America (compared to Hungary, say). As you can see, investing in education can mean big bucks here.
For women, shown above, the story is much different: A much lower earning potential. That's just one of the fascinating facts you can discover while playing around with the interactive graphic.
The judges praised it for doing "a great job of breaking down the complex interplay between costs and returns into a form that is easy to compare." And it's a lot easier to understand than its source--the O.E.C.D.'s 568-page "Education at a Glance."
Copyright 2013 by Fast Company. Reprinted with permission.