GSE Publications

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Journal Article

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Thought & Action





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Both individuals and society at large benefit when an individual earns a college degree.

The benefits to individuals are short term and long term, economic and non-economic. Short-term benefits include enjoyment of the learning experience, participation in athletic, cultural, and social events, and enhancement of social status. Long-term benefits include higher lifetime earnings, more fulfilling work environment, better health, and longer life.1

Although societal benefits are more difficult to quantify, benefits that spill over beyond the individual cannot be ignored.2 One societal benefit is the economic growth associated with the enhanced productivity of labor resulting from higher levels of educational attainment.

Neighborhood effects are another societal benefit. These include reduced crime, reduced dependency on public welfare and Medicaid, increased volunteerism, greater voting rates, and increased levels of civic involvement. The single most important effect of higher education may well be intergenerational–manifested, for example, in the increased educational attainment of one’s children.3

For the individual and societal benefits of higher education to be realized, individuals must have the opportunity and ability to access postsecondary education and persist to degree completion.



Date Posted: 20 August 2015

This document has been peer reviewed.