Benefits of a College Degree

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Maybe you were planning on going back to school this year, but you're thinking you've missed the admissions deadline for the spring semester. Or maybe you wonder if you missed your opportunity to get a college degree years ago. Well, we have good news for you: it's never too late for a college degree! Now is exactly the right time to get started.

College isn't just for 18-year-olds any more

Going to college is changing in the 21st Century. Approximately 84% of the total number of students enrolled in college classes are adult learners with families and jobs, going to school part-time1. Education experts have taken notice. As more attention is focused on adult learners, smart schools are working hard to offer more classes online and to improve the quality of their online format.

College year-round; classes that start on convenient dates

The college experience is changing to meet the demands of a fast-changing international economy. Some jobs and industries may go away completely, but others will take their places. Some business sectors, such as the auto industry, will reinvent themselves with new technology - ending old ways of building the cars of the past but creating new processes for building the cars of the future.

Likewise, schools are reinventing the education process, including admissions and enrollment procedures. Many schools offer classes on a rolling basis throughout the year to give adult learners the flexibility they need to fit education into their busy lives.

A college degree means a bigger paycheck and more career options

With every college degree you earn, your potential earnings rise. With every year of college you complete, your career options increase, along with your opportunities for promotion. For people working fulltime, year-round, U.S. Census Bureau statistics show that employees with an associate degree earn 19% more than those with a high school diploma alone, employees with a bachelor's degree earn 62% more, and those with a master's degree earn almost double the pay2.

A college degree increases your access to health insurance and pension plans

The College Board conducted a study of the benefit of higher education on individual people and on society as a whole3. The study's results showed that workers with college degrees are much more likely than those without to be offered employer-paid health insurance and pension plans. This is especially significant when you consider that the overall number of employers providing these job benefits is going down, while at the same time the gap is widening between the number of workers with and without a college degree who are offered them.

A college degree is an asset in the job market

The best way to land on your feet in a constantly changing job market is to keep upgrading your education and your skills. With a college degree, you can be open to new job opportunities and transfer your knowledge from one career sector to another.

In a survey4 asking about the skills they're looking for in new employees, employers reported that they most value:

  • dependability,
  • reliability,
  • a good attitude,
  • the ability to read comfortably,
  • computer skills, and
  • the ability to communicate clearly both in spoken word and in writing.

Employers also value employees who can:

  • work equally well either alone or as part of a team,
  • think about and make decisions about complex situations, and
  • suggest helpful solutions to both company and customer problems.

A good college degree program can help with all of these skills, which add up to a valuable skill set known as "resourcefulness."

A college degree is good for your health - and for your children's brainpower

The College Board's careful study also shows that having a college degree is related to good health in parents and learning readiness in children. Adults with a college degree are much more likely than those without to perceive themselves as healthy, to stay fit with exercise, and to choose not to smoke.

What's more, "the cognitive skills of children between the ages of 3 and 5 are highly correlated with the education level of their mothers," and "children of parents with higher levels of education are better prepared for school...than other children"3. The school readiness skills that were evaluated in the preschool children emphasized the strong impact of their mothers' higher education on their own ability to learn and to like learning.

A college degree reduces unemployment and poverty rates

The chances of being unemployed are much lower for workers with a college degree than for those with a high school diploma alone, probably due to the greater ability to transfer knowledge and skills at the college level.

Even more dramatic is the difference between the poverty rates of the families of college graduates and the families of high school graduates, particularly in families headed by single mothers. In 2005, families of workers with only a high school diploma were three times as likely to fall into poverty than families of workers holding a college degree.

A college degree is for life

Having a college degree has strong positive effect on many aspects of life, from paycheck to health insurance to boosting children's learning readiness. In fact, the long-lasting benefits of higher education prove that it's never too late for a college degree.

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1) "Hidden in Plain Sight: Adult Learners Forge a New Tradition in Higher Education," Peter J. Stokes, Ph.D., Executive Vice President, Eduventures, for the Secretary of Education's Commission on the Future of Higher Education, U.S. Department of Education.
2) U.S. Census Bureau, 2005 Current Population Survey's (CPS) Annual Social and Economic Supplement (ASEC).
3) The College Board: "Education Pays 2007: The Benefits of Higher Education for Individuals and Society," Sandy Baum and Jennifer Ma, Trends in Higher Education Series.
4) "Knowledge and Skills Needed to Succeed in the 21st Century Workplace," National Center for Higher Education Management Systems, June 2000.