Its fall again, which for those who are seniors in high school, their parents, and those of us who work with them it is time to renew the search for college in earnest. I say renew because serious students often begin their search in the freshman or sophomore year (junior at the latest) and simply confirm their choices and produce all of the applications in the senior years. These students and their families know the value of education. Others may not. And so in the summer of each year and continuing through the fall we find articles from news agencies discussing why and how one should earn a university degree. It is an occupational hazard, but I collect these things, so let me pass some information on to you
A few factoids: Jonathan Brown, retiring president of the Association for Independent California Colleges and Universities (AICCU—see their website for all kinds of good information: AICCU) wrote in his September 16th weekly newsletter that it has been projected that in the next fifteen years California will experience a shortage of one million “degreed individuals.” This week in the Fresno Bee, there was yet another article on the current unemployment rate, this time focusing on high school graduates and those without high school diplomas. Here is the difference: the unemployment rate for those without high school degrees in Fresno County rose to 19.5% in 2010; for high school graduates the rate late year was 14%; for college graduates it rose to 6.1%. As they say, you do the math. Then add the stats to Jonathan Brown’s claim. When new jobs are created and new employees needed, who is going to be ready for them?
A very helpful article came out this summer in the New York Times, entitled “Even for Cashiers, College Pays Off”. Here is the stunning claim: “A new study shows that a bachelor’s degree pays off for jobs that don’t require one: secretaries, plumbers, and cashiers. And beyond money, education seems to make people happier and healthier.” Another set of factoids: the gap in wages between those with high school diplomas those with college diplomas as risen from 40% to 83%; a research study showed that the annual return on an investment in a college or university education was 15% compared to the stock market’s average return of 7%.
Back at the AICCU there is another bit of information on average salaries at various levels of education. A bachelor’s degree results in an average salary of $20,000 per year above the average salary for someone with a high school diploma. (And they note that students at independent universities graduate at faster rates than at publics, but that is another story.) Multiply that average salary over a life time of work, add to it better benefits, paid vacations, contributions towards retirements that a person receives in more professional positions, and you get an number something like $1-1.5 million as the lifetime benefit of a college education.
This is all just about the monetary benefit. And we shouldn’t discount it. Students who go to college as a “first generation” college students and then graduate have a good chance of raising whole families out of lower income levels, if not out of poverty, and returning to their communities with skills, training and insight (we hope) that contributes to the well being of the whole. There are deeper reasons as well for a college education, like the opening of s student to new or old great ideas, learning to think in different ways, and the inspiration that might be found for greater understanding of what is true, good and beautiful, and some insight in to one’s true calling. But these too are topics for another day.
Now students are out looking for colleges because they think it just might be a good thing for them. And they are right. Our visitation days at Fresno Pacific called “The Encounter” start this month—all part of the searching process.