The effects of education on your future
Given the ever increasing costs associated with higher education, many may be wondering if attending college is still a positive investment in one's future.
As an associate professor for Arizona Western College and a program coordinator for the University of Arizona, I definitely approach this subject with a biased opinion. However, a plethora of research exists on the benefits of attending college.
According to a study conducted by the Institute for Higher Education Policy, the personal benefits of higher education include higher salary and benefits, lower unemployment rates, reduced reliance on public assistance and improved health. These benefits are expanded below and use statistics produced by the Institute for Higher Education Policy and the U.S. Census Bureau.
• Personal income: Income is an important measure of one's expected quality of life. Who doesn't want to be able to buy the things that they want? By getting an education, your chances of having a larger income greatly increase. The national average total personal income for workers 25 and older with a bachelor's degree is $48,417. This is $23,000 higher than the average income of those with only a high school diploma! These numbers increase with the more education that one receives.
• Labor and unemployment: An educated work force produces more jobs, a higher tax base and an increased demand for goods and services. These are all things that add to a stable and strong economy. The average unemployment rate changes significantly if broken down by level of education. High school dropouts see an average of 13 percent unemployment. This drops to an average of 7 percent if one holds a high school diploma, 4 percent for those with an associate's degree, 3 percent for those that hold a bachelor's degree and hovers around 2 percent for those with graduate degrees.
• Reduced reliance on public assistance: Less dependence on welfare assistance is a generally agreed-upon quality of life measure. Statistically speaking, the majority of individuals receiving public assistance are uneducated. At a national level, only 0.5 percent of those with a bachelor's degree received some kind of public assistance. Furthermore, just graduating from high school significantly decreases your likelihood of needing to rely on public assistance.
• Health: Improved health has a direct correlation with decreased medical expenses and increased quality of life. In the United States, 82 percent of those with a high school diploma reported being in “excellent, very good or good health.” This compares with 93 percent of individuals holding at least a bachelor's degree that reported the same.
As an educator, I believe wholeheartedly in the power of education. Besides the importance of knowledge, education has the power to bring individuals out of poverty, increase their likelihood of success and contribute to a higher quality of life. Education has been shown to increase personal income, lower the chance of being unemployed, increase the likelihood of being healthy and decrease reliance on public assistance. These are important factors to keep in mind when making educational decisions. Remember these decisions affect the entire future of yourself, your family and your community.
Kyle Hawkey is an associate professor at Arizona Western College and a program coordinator, senior for the University of Arizona. He can be reached at email@example.com.