Many high school graduates have not planned to continue their education
to pursue a four-year college degree. There are at least two reasons cited
for not going to university. The first is that it is expensive. The second
reason is that it is time-consuming.
However, rather than considering
graduation from high school as the end of required education, it is advisable
to think of it as the beginning of the educational journey that will help
determine your future earnings. Postsecondary education is generally regarded
as the passport to better pay and a higher standard of living.
the cost of education is a concern for most students and parents. However,
as investments go, pursuing a higher education is one that promises good returns
-- it expands the options available to young people and older students for
the rest of their lives.
To be successful in the current and future
global marketplace, workers must be able to compete with diverse and educated
competitors from around the world. "An increasing proportion of careers require
Postsecondary education," says Sandy Baum, senior policy analyst with the
College Board and professor of economics at Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs,
New York. "Many rapidly growing occupations require two-year degrees or certificates
... It is important that all Americans have access to the Postsecondary education
needed to provide financially [rewarding] and personally satisfying career[s]."
The U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics gives employment
projections for the fastest growing occupations for 2006-2016. The listed
occupations include network systems and data communications analysts, personal
financial advisors, mental health and substance abuse social workers, physical
therapists, physical therapist assistants and physician assistants.
occupations all require, at a minimum, an associate's degree, up to a master's
degree. The majority of the positions that require the higher level of education
ranked in the very high category for wages earned. For example, individuals
with master's degrees employed as physical therapists could earn $46,360 or
more in the very high range. On the other hand, the upper-level earnings of
home health aides with short-term, on-the-job training are much lower at $21,220.
"Four-year college graduates earn much more, on average, than individuals
with lower levels of educational attainment," says Baum.
A U.S. Census
Bureau report from January 2008 notes that research shows that "more education
continues to pay off in a big way. Adults with advanced degrees earn four
times more than those with less than a high school diploma. Workers 18 and
older with a master's, professional or doctoral degree earned an average of
$82,320 in 2006, while those with less than a high school diploma earned $20,873."
The report also states, "In 2007, 86 percent of all adults 25 and
older reported they had completed at least high school and 29 percent at least
had a bachelor's degree ... Workers 18 and older with a bachelor's degree
earned an average of $56,788 in 2006, while those with a high school diploma
While it is true that college degrees garner higher
wages, certain fields of lower-level training do offer benefits close to,
or the same as, four-year college degrees. Another U.S. Census Bureau's report
from January 2008 states, "The field of training can sometimes have as dramatic
an effect on earnings as the level of education ... Workers who held vocational
certificates in engineering averaged about $3,880 a month, which is nearly
the same as those with bachelor's degrees in natural science. Likewise, those
with associate's degrees in computers averaged about $3,760 a month, which
is close to those with bachelor's degrees in education or social science."
However, it's not just about income. Higher education is rewarding
in more ways than just monetary benefits. As Baum points out, it's about having
an interesting and personally satisfying career too.
In the College
Board report entitled Education Pays: The Benefits of Higher Education for
Individuals and Society 2007, Baum and Jennifer Ma write, "Salaries are not
the only form of compensation correlated with education level; college graduates
are more likely than other employees to enjoy employer-provided health and
pension benefits. More educated people are less likely to be unemployed and
less likely to live in poverty ...
"Society as a whole also enjoys
a financial return on the investment in higher education. In addition to widespread
productivity increases, the higher earnings of educated workers generate higher
tax payments at the local, state and federal levels ...
adults with higher levels of education are more likely to engage in organized
volunteer work, to vote and to donate blood; they are also more likely to
live healthy lifestyles. College-educated adults are more likely than others
to be open to differing views of others, and the young children of adults
with higher levels of education have higher cognitive skills and engage in
more extracurricular, cultural, athletic and religious activities than other
children. In other words, participation in Postsecondary education improves
the quality of civil society."
Students and their parents should consult
with the school guidance counselor and a financial advisor to explore all
available educational and financial options. This way, students can see all
their realistic options to maximize their educational and career potential.