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Higher Education Benefits More than Just Economic Gains

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College-OpportunitiesA recent report by the Pew Research Center shows that the earning gap between high school and college graduates is at its widest point in 48 years. The Pew Study shows that a person with just a high-school diploma earned 62% of the typical salary of a college graduate, which is down from 81% percent in 1965, the earliest year for which comparable data are available.

According to Paul Taylor, Pew’s executive vice president and co-author of the report, “In today’s knowledge-based economy, the only thing more expensive than getting a college education is not getting one. Young adults see significant economic gains from getting a college degree regardless of the level of student debt they have taken on.”

In fact, the report shows that college graduates ages 25 to 32 who were working full time now typically earn about $17,500 more annually than employed young adults with just a high school diploma. In addition, the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that workers with only a high school education are twice as likely to be unemployed as those with at least a bachelor’s degree.

While there is no debating the economic merits of a college education, too often our focus on the financial gains of a degree overshadow the social, health, and  personal growth opportunities a higher education experience can provide.

As Dr. Wayne Baker, a sociologist on the faculty of the University of Michigan Ross School of Business, explained in a recent blog post, “College grads live healthier, longer lives. This means they continue be productive and to pay taxes, contribute to Social Security, and so on. Better health means they make fewer demands on the healthcare system. College grads are less likely to commit crimes. And, they make more-informed political decisions.”

According to The College Board’s Education Pays report, college graduates also have lower smoking rates than people without a college degree. People with college degrees are also more likely to report regularly exercising — 68% of young adults with four-year college degrees report participating in “vigorous exercise” once a week or more, compared with 40% of people with just a high school diploma.

College DegreeThe Bureau of Labor Statistics also reports that individuals with higher levels of education engaged in volunteer activities at higher rates than did those with less education. Forty percent of college graduates volunteer, compared with 17% of high school graduates. The US Census Bureau recently announced significantly higher voting rates for college graduates when compared to high school graduates. Lastly, additional data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics shows the probability of divorce for both men and women declines with educational attainment.

The evidence-based support of a college education is simply overwhelming!
Speaking from my own personal experience, I believe my time in college provided me with the skills and abilities to think critically, ask questions, mature and grow intellectually.  As an adult I now lean on the skills that I learned in my undergrad and grad school classes in order to research and look at issues from multiple viewpoints, learn and work with people from diverse backgrounds, communicate effectively, and have the confidence to be a leader during challenging times. Most importantly college taught me how to make informed decisions so that the doors to opportunity are open rather than closed.

In closing, I want to highlight a powerful paragraph from an opinion article written by David Soles, a reporter with the Wichita Eagle in Kansas, “Lacking any meaningful grasp of the issues, individuals will substitute the parroting of slogans and meaningless metaphors promulgated by special interests, or identify with engaging, powerful personalities. The outcome will not be determined by reasoned, reflective consideration of issues but by whoever is most successful at persuading the uninformed.”

Written by Ryan Betz

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