IU Public Policy Institute releases report on private, public value of higher education
With recent headlines asking "Is college worth it?" and reports of a burgeoning student loan crisis, there has been considerable public discussion about the costs and benefits of higher education.
Often, those discussions are limited to how much individuals pay for school and how much they earn upon graduation. But from a policy-making perspective, evaluating higher education requires broader measures of economic and social benefits.
This is the purpose of a research review released by the Indiana University Public Policy Institute as part of its Policy Choices for Indiana's Future project. The Policy Choices initiative is designed to provide objective recommendations on key issues for future Indiana legislative and gubernatorial candidates.
"From lower incarceration and obesity rates to higher levels of civic engagement and volunteerism, education is associated with a broad array of benefits to both individuals and society," according to the report. "While the costs incurred educating our society are enormous, and growing, we must be aware that the costs of failing to do so might be even greater."
Among the report's findings:
- College-educated people earn more. In the last quarter of 2010, the median weekly earnings for a full-time worker age 25 and over with less than a high school diploma were $438. A similar worker with a high school diploma could expect to earn $633. For those with a bachelor's degree, weekly earnings were $1,139 (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2010).
- College-educated people are less likely to be unemployed. In the last quarter of 2010, the unemployment rate for those with less than a high school diploma was 15.4 percent, compared to a rate of only 4.9 percent for those with a bachelor's degree or higher (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2009).
- College-educated people are more likely to get workplace benefits. The percent of adults without health insurance is three times higher for those with only a high school diploma compared to those with a bachelor's degree or higher.
- College-educated people are less likely to live in poverty. In 2009, 25.7 percent of those with less than a high school diploma lived below the poverty level. By merely completing high school, the percentage of those who lived below the poverty line is halved to 12.5 percent. For those with a bachelor's degree or higher, the percentage living below the poverty level falls to 3.9 percent (U.S. Census Bureau, 2009).
- High-school dropouts are a cost to society while college-educated people contribute to society. Theaverage high-school dropout will have a lifetime net fiscal contribution to society of approximately -$5,200 compared to $793,079 for those who earn a bachelor's degree (Khatiwada et al., 2009).
- College-educated people are less likely to be incarcerated. During 2006-07, nearly 10 percent of male high school dropouts ages 16-24 were incarcerated. For those with a bachelor's degree or higher, the incarceration rate falls to only 0.2 percent.
- College-educated people are healthier and their health costs are lower. One example: For chronic smokers -- those who reported smoking daily -- 25.3 percent have less than a high school diploma, compared to only 5.1 percent for those with a bachelor's degree. In Indiana, the percentage of chronic smokers by education is even more severe. In 2009, 32.9 percent of Hoosiers with less than a high school diploma were chronic smokers compared to a rate of only 5.1 percent for their peers with at least a bachelor's degree.
- College-educated people are more likely to participate in our democracy. More than 61 percent of those with a bachelor's degree voted in the 2006 mid-term election compared to only 25.2 percent for those with less than a high school diploma (U.S. Census Bureau, 2008).
To read the full report or learn more about Policy Choices, visit https://www.policyinstitute.iu.edu/PolicyChoices/publicationDetail.aspx?publicationID=672.
About the IU Public Policy Institute
Established in 2008, the IU Public Policy Institute is a collaborative, multidisciplinary research institute within the Indiana University School of Public and Environmental Affairs (SPEA). The Institute's team includes experienced faculty and staff with expertise in policy analysis, program evaluation, facilitation and planning. The Institute conducts non-partisan research for political and community leaders who need to understand the long-term effects of policy decisions. The Institute, based at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, serves as an umbrella organization for four research organizations affiliated with SPEA: the Center for Urban Policy and the Environment (established in 1992); the Center for Criminal Justice Research (2008); the Office of International Community Development (2006); and the Indiana Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations (1995).