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The Hidden Benefits of a College Degree

Editor's Note: Johanna Altland is on the Communications team of Grantham University and a frequent contributor to military- and education-related publications.

Over the years, a lot of research has been done about the benefits of earning a college degree, and many articles have been published about the higher wages and lower risk of unemployment for college graduates. I have written about this topic several times, but I came across some interesting information about the intrinsic value of a college degree that goes beyond compensation and unemployment rates. 

Did you know that college graduates have a better quality of life? 

Research conducted by the College Board, “Education Pays: The Benefits of Higher Education for Individuals and Society,” found that as a college graduate you are more likely to vote and volunteer, understand the importance of other’s opinions, have better health, and have employer-sponsored health benefits and pension plans. 

Civic Engagement

Many consider it a civic duty to pay taxes, vote and volunteer their time to those in need, and this is particularly true among college graduates.

Taxes: Just as college graduates benefit from higher salaries, society benefits from the higher tax revenues graduates generate for local, state and federal governments. A typical graduate, working full-time year-round, paid almost 80 percent more in total federal, state, and local taxes than a high school graduate.

Voting: Data from the 2004 presidential election found that college graduates are also more likely to vote. Of voters between the ages of 25 and 44, 75% of college graduates voted compared to 49% of high school graduates.

Volunteering: In a recent surbvForty-three percent of the men and women surveyed who volunteered with an organization in 2006 held at least a bachelor’s degree; only 19% of those were high school graduates. 

Better Health

The College Board study also found that there is a relationship between educational attainment and better health at every age and income level. Of four-year college graduates with incomes between $55,000 and $74,999, 83% reported being in excellent or very good health, compared to 75% of associate degree recipients and 73% of high school graduates.

Smoking: College graduates are less likely to smoke. Of the 20% of adults who smoke, only 9% are college graduates and 69% of those with a bachelor’s degree or higher have never smoked. 

Exercise: No matter your age, college graduates at all levels are more likely to exercise. The greatest difference in numbers occurred in the 25 to 34-year-old age group. In that group, 78% of college graduates exercised moderately at least once a week, whereas only 49% of high school graduates indicated the same. 

Health Benefits and Pension Plans: Despite the decline in employer paid health care, college graduates are still more likely to received employer paid health insurance and pension plans. Sixty-nine percent of four-year college graduates, who work full-time, were offered pension plans by their employers and 89% participate in these plans.   
Better Parents

But, perhaps the biggest benefit of all is for parents who have a college degree. Your children are better prepared for school and participate in more extracurricular activities. Children of college graduates are 30% more likely to participate in scouting and art related activities than children of high school graduates, and 44% participated in sports activities, compared to 18% of children of high school graduates. Additionally, children of college graduates are much more likely to graduate high school and go to college, and, like their parents, they are more likely to have better health.

It is important to keep in mind that there may be some other social and economic factors that contribute to this data, but above all, the research is clear, education is an investment with many pay-offs. 

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