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May 5, 2014 5:13 PM EDT

College tuition may hit the wallet hard, but skipping college can hit it even harder, a new study finds.

Released by the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, the survey found that college graduates, on average, earned $830,800 more than the high school graduates over the course of their working lives. That’s after accounting for the cost of tuition and the wages foregone during four years of study.

The authors were able to trace lifetime earnings by using data from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics, a uniquely lengthy survey of several thousand families over the course of 40 years, beginning in 1968.

“We find that college is still worth it,” the authors write in an economic letter to sticker-shocked students and parents everywhere.

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