Increase your value — attend college

Published 12:31 am Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Just how valuable is a college education?

Are you asking yourself this question? Is the economy and the growing cost of higher education causing you to wonder about the value of education beyond high school?

Considerable study has been done on the benefits of higher education. Significant support can be found for the notion that the rate of return on investment in higher education is great enough to offset the financial burden associated with the college degree. According to research done by the University of Maryland University College, college graduates earn nearly twice as much during their working years as high school graduates.

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Information from the U.S. Census Bureau stands behind the value of a college education. The bureau reports that seasoned workers across the United States who are 25 and older with a bachelor’s degree earn an average of $59,635 a year, while those with a high school diploma earn $33,609. Workers with a master’s degree make an average of $70,559, and those with a doctoral degree earn an average of $95,785, and a professional degree earns an average of $121,340.

If you look at it from a different angle, over an adult’s working life, high school graduates can expect, on average, to earn $1.6 million; those with a bachelor’s degree, $2.9 million; and people with a master’s degree, $3.4 million. Persons with doctoral degrees earn an average of $4.3 million during their working life, while those with professional degrees do best at $5.4 million. (U.S. Census Bureau.)

Graduating from college can also qualify you for some jobs that would not be available to you otherwise, so getting a college degree should actually be considered a career necessity in today’s business world. Instead of thinking of college as just one more school, think of it as a lifetime investment, while knowing that you will ultimately get back more than you put in.

In addition to higher income, college graduates can expect to enjoy other benefits.

The Institute for Higher Education Policy pushed a report outlining some of the many individual advantages of a college education.

These advantages include higher levels of savings, increased personal/professional mobility, improved quality of life for their children, better consumer decision making, and more hobbies and leisure activities. (Institute for Higher Education Policy, 1998.)

A Carnegie Foundation report stated that there are non-monetary benefits of higher education which may include adults who are more open-minded, more cultured, more rational, more consistent and less authoritarian and that these benefits may be passed along to future generations. Also, college attendance tends to “decrease prejudice, enhance knowledge of world affairs and enhance social status” (Rowley and Hurtado, 2002.)

Along with the individual benefits of education, the public shares in the rewards. These include increased tax revenues, greater workplace productivity, increased consumption, increased workforce flexibility, and decreased reliance on government financial support. (Institute for Higher Education Policy, 1998.)

Eric Schurenberg (2009) recently reported on CBS MoneyWatch that the non-financial payoffs to education may be as great as the monetary one. He produced charts showing that the better educated you are, the happier, healthier, more trusting and less likely to get divorced you are. Another report published by the National Bureau of Economic Research indicates that experiences and skills acquired in school continue throughout life and not just through higher earnings. “Schooling also affects the degree one enjoys work and leads individuals to make better decisions about health, marriage, and parenting. It also improves patience, making individuals more goal-oriented and less likely to engage in risky behavior. Schooling improves trust and social interaction.” (Oreopoulos and Salvanes, 2009.)

As the trend continues toward multiple jobs and even multiple careers, higher education is critical in preparing you to make the transitions to new challenges. A college degree is, without a doubt, well worth your investment of time, energy and money. With careful planning and the help of a good college or university, you can see the realization of many of your dreams in two places that they matter most — your life and your paycheck!

Citizens of Natchez and Southwest Mississippi are blessed to have wonderful institutions of higher learning right here in their own back yards.

Alcorn State University, Copiah-Lincoln Community College and Southwest Community College not only provide access to higher education but they offer success for the future.

Ruth Nichols is the special assistant to the president at Alcorn State University.