5 Ways a College Education Changes Lives

It’s not just about money and careers.

Posted Jan 22, 2015

There has been a lot of discussion about the rising costs of higher education, and whether a college degree “is worth it.” It is clear that most people are motivated to get a college degree for economic reasons; to get a better job and make more money. So, let’s consider the economics of higher education, but also the other benefits of a college education.

1. Economic. It is well known that a college degree increases income, and that a bachelors degree can add a million dollars or more to a person's lifetime income. A graduate or professional degree adds more. Of course, the cost of education continues its steep increase, and the debt-to-income ratio is getting worse, but over a lifetime, it still pays off.

But looking beyond the personal level, it is a fact that an educated population increases the economic potential of a nation The U.S. is the worldwide leader in higher education programs and the future of the U.S. economy rests on the ability to educate a greater percentage of the population.

2. Saving the Environment. College educated people are more environmentally conscious and more likely to participate in recycling and conservation programs (although more affluent people do tend to use more resources, consume more goods, etc.).

One could also argue that rescuing our diminishing environment is only going to be achieved through scientific breakthroughs - developing clean alternative energies, increasing food production, and access to clean water, reducing poverty, etc.

3. Longer Life. A recent book, The Longevity Project, showed that college graduates tended to live slightly longer lives (and higher quality lives) than their non-college educated peers, presumably due to their ability to get better healthcare and to be more involved in maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

4. Reducing Prejudice. College graduates tend to be more tolerant of diverse groups and less prejudiced than non-college educated persons.

5. World Peace. It has been argued that a better educated population leads to a more productive and more peaceful world, due to the other factors listed above - higher per capita income, reduced prejudice, scientific advancements, etc.

So, it seems clear that higher education holds the potential to transform lives and the world. The issue is how to increase access to higher education around the globe, and reduce the costs. We clearly have the technology to educate - the U.S. is still the world leader in higher education, the key is how to make college more affordable for lower income Americans and how to increase education in impoverished and developing countries.

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 image: Wikimedia