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Higher Education: More than Just High Salaries

Higher Education: More than Just High Salaries

24 June, 2016

Finishing a degree is just like going through a needle hole. Whether higher education is suitable for everybody is still a heated debate.

Nevertheless, higher education is generally beneficial for the following reasons:

  • Graduate salaries and employability

The most-measured benefit of higher education is of course graduate salaries, and the report confirms that higher levels of education do result in higher earning power. It cites research by Greenstone and Looney (2011) of the Brookings Institution’s Hamilton Project, which says: “On average, the advantages of a four-year college degree are equivalent to an investment that returns 15.2% per year.”

The monetary benefits of higher education can be seen in the lifetime difference of 65% earning power when comparing graduate salaries and the earnings of those with just high school education. This earnings gap increases with higher levels of degree, and also with age. The gap between those with a bachelor’s degree and those with a high school education increases from 54% for 25 to 29-year-olds to 86% for 45 to 49-year-olds.

The favorable effects of higher education also extend to the chances of being employed in the first place.  Unemployment rates for four-year college graduates in the US fell from 4.7% in 2010 to 4.0% in 2012, while for high school graduates the equivalent figures were 10.3% in 2010 and 8.3% in 2012.

  • Contributions to society

The benefits of higher education incorporate significant contributions to society, with higher educated workers typically paying more tax.

Higher levels of education are also found to correlate with higher health insurance and pension contributions. Bachelor’s degree holders are also less likely to rely on public assistance programs, according to 2011 figures which show only 2% living in households that rely on Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, compared with 12% of high school graduates.

  • Other benefits of higher education

It is true that those with a college education are more likely to live healthier lifestyles, with fewer incidences of smoking and obesity. The gap between smoking rates of those with high school diplomas and those with four-year degrees has risen from 2 percentage points in 1962 to 17 points in 2012.

College-educated adults of all ages, and their children, are also less likely to be obese. In addition, mothers with higher levels of education spend more time with their children, regardless of whether they are employed or not.

Additional non-monetary benefits of higher education include psychological benefits derived from “the material well-being of individuals and the wealth of society”, and the increased likelihood of engaging in voluntary work and understanding political issues. And in terms of job satisfaction, 56% of workers aged 30 to 45 agree that their job keeps them learning, opposed to just over 30% with a high school diploma.

  • On average, the more you learn the more you earn

To sum up, providing reassurance that spending time and money on higher levels of education is likely to pay off – both in monetary terms and beyond. Its argument is summarized: “The evidence is clear that some form of post-secondary education is a necessary element of successful, independent lives for most people in today’s economy.”