The value of pursuing education beyond high school can hardly be overstated. Whether seeking a four-year liberal arts or science degree or technical training, those who invest in educating themselves reap benefits far beyond the cost of the classes. In recognition, support and encouragement of this pursuit, Gov. John Hickenlooper has announced that this week will commemorate College Friday.
The proclamation amounts to a statewide pep rally wherein Coloradans are encouraged to wear their alma mater or favorite college’s paraphernalia as a statement about the value of higher education. It is a symbolic collective action that, while not likely to be directly linked to increasing numbers of students who seek higher education, makes a strong and important statement about Colorado’s commitment to the endeavor.
The numbers are clear, and have been for quite some time: The higher a degree a person earns, the higher his or her lifetime earnings will be. Georgetown University’s 2011 study, The College Payoff, confirms this long-held knowledge, finding that, “A high school dropout can expect to earn $973,000 over a lifetime. Someone with a high school diploma can expect to earn $1.3 million over a lifetime. A worker with some college but no degree earns $1.5 million over a lifetime. An associate’s degree-holder earns $1.7 million over a lifetime. A worker with a bachelor’s degree will earn $2.3 million over a lifetime.”
The earnings climb from there, as well: those with master’s degrees can expect to earn $2.7 million over their lifetimes, and doctorate holders earn $3.3 million. Professional degree holders, such as doctors and lawyers, yield $3.6 million in their lifetimes, according to the report.
And if the dollars are not reason enough to invest in education, there is the knowledge, perspective and experience that students gain in the process. In discovering more about how the world works, we can each understand better how we can contribute to it. That effort and what it yields is significant for individuals, their families, communities and society as a whole.
In Colorado, the opportunities to pursue higher education are plentiful even with recent years’ ratcheted funding for institutions in the state. Educators at all levels have increasingly been working together to better communicate what students need to be prepared for post-high school learning, making the transition smoother and more efficient for students and institutions. There is still much that can improve in that bridging effort, but doing so will smooth the path for more students to reach college and beyond. As state coffers begin to recover from the recent recession, colleges and universities will have more breathing room in their budgets and, consequently, more to offer their potential students.
Friday’s “conversation-starter” about higher education is as good an opportunity as any to raise the profile of the pursuit. There are a number of incentives to encourage recognition of the day – and those who participate in it. Colorado State University will waive its application fee for those who apply through Monday, and there are a number of scholarship opportunities and test-preparation offers related to the event. Taking advantage of these options could meaningfully connect more students to post-high school education. That is the right idea.
Colorado’s higher education system is strong, and encouraging students to participate in it serves the state – and all who live here – well: An educated population is a productive one. Participate in College Friday and send a message that education is a value to honor and support in Colorado and across the country.