Higher Education: What’s the social value of college?

https://readthespirit.com/ourvalues/wp-content/uploads/sites/17/2013/03/wpid-0525_college_lecture_hall.jpgA college lecture hall, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.The financial value of a college education is clear. College grads earn about $550,000 more in their lifetimes compared to high school grads, as we discussed yesterday. But making more money is a “private” benefit, economists say, enjoyed primarily by the recipient and his or her immediate family. Are there any “social” benefits? A social benefit means that a person who earns a college degree creates benefits for other members of society.

What might those benefits be? One is that 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. But living longer also cuts the other way, as economists who study the value of education point out. Eventually, college grads stop working and start drawing on tax-funded retirement programs.

The earnings boost that comes from a college degree means that college grads are contributing to economic growth and development. College grads are less likely to commit crimes. And, they make more-informed political decisions.

Three of four college grads in Pew’s new study on the value of college said that college helped them increase their knowledge and grow intellectually. Two of three said that college helped them grow and mature as a person. Just over half said it helped to prepare them for a job or career.

What do you see as the social value of higher education?

Are there other social benefits than the ones mentioned here?

 Originally published at www.OurValues.org, an online experiment in civil dialogue on American values.

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