Education: More than just for personal gain

I had a conversation with a bright, young, college junior the other day. We got to talking about the importance of a college education. I asked a simple question, and got a simple answer.

My question: Why did you choose to go to college? Her answer: To make money!

While this wasn’t the response I was expecting, she was right. For example, according to the 2008 U.S. Census Bureau, workers with a four-year degree earned an average of about $57k per year annually compared to just over $31K for those with only a high-school diploma.

It seems our society is quick to think about education on a personal level — an investment in one’s own future — for which money is an important part.

But surely there is more to a higher education than simply personal financial gains. Colleges are not just in the business of bettering each individual student, but rather for the good of our society as a whole as well.

This is evidenced by a recent economic impact report that was released by the CSU, which outlines some pretty impressive benefits to California’s economy. For instance, the CSU generates $17 billion in economic activity and supports more than 150,000 jobs in California annually.  What’s more, the CSU creates a return on investment of nearly $5.50 for every $1 the state invests.

While earning power is a good selling point for college, it is really society in general that benefits most from a well-educated citizenry.

We should talk this up more.

— Rob Meszaros, CSUB Director of Public Affairs and Communications