Education Attainment Benefits All

shutterstock_124662829This is the time of year when one semester is ending and another beginning – the time when students must make the commitment to continue their education. Continuing education is important to many, from the individuals pursuing education attainment to businesses and the economy, and to the position of the United States globally.

The National Center for Education Statistics shows that while the United States’ percentage of adults with bachelor’s degrees is higher than most other Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries, at the current rate of attainment, the United States may not remain at a higher level. “All countries with data reported that the percentages of 25- to 64-year-olds who had completed a bachelor’s or higher degree were higher in 2012 than they were in 2001. The OECD average percentage of the adult population with a bachelor’s or higher degree increased by 8 percentage points between 2001 and 2012, from 15 to 24 percent. During the same period, the percentage of U.S. adults with a bachelor’s or higher degree increased from 28 to 33 percent.” With this slowing rate increase of just 5 percentage points, the U.S. may find it difficult to compete on a global level in the future. http://nces.ed.gov/programs/coe/indicator_cac.asp. With Goal 2020, for the U.S. to have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world, looming in the near future, it is important to assess the value of continuing education.

Personal Gains from Education Attainment

The economic advantage for students to complete their education cannot be overstated. Individuals with a college education earn significantly more than those without. The New York Federal Reserve figures show that the return on a bachelor’s degree has been about 15 percent over the last 10 years. https://www.newyorkfed.org/research/current_issues/ci20-3.html In terms of actual dollars, that ROI has a large impact on an individual’s life. Career earnings for someone with a bachelor’s degree are an average of over $1 million more than someone with a high school diploma. http://www.usnews.com/news/articles/2014/06/24/benefits-of-college-still-outweigh-costs-fed-study-says.
Monetary gain is not the only reason to make a commitment to higher education attainment. Numerous studies show that college graduate also realize many intangible benefits. College graduates find greater job satisfaction, have more healthful lifestyles with less smoking and more exercise, and are more civically engaged with higher voting and volunteerism rates.

Business Gains from Education Attainment

Businesses profit in many ways when they encourage their employees to complete higher education. SHRM data shows that 88 percent of companies offer their employees some kind of professional development. These include tuition for degree programs, certification fees, and licensure. https://www.shrm.org/research/surveyfindings/articles/documents/13-0245%202013_empbenefits_fnl.pdf. OECD statistics show that about 56 percent of U.S. employees take advantage of their employer tuition assistance programs. Promoting TAP to employees can benefit employers in many ways. When a TAP program is aligned with business goals, businesses will have fewer struggles with a skills gap. They can keep key positions filled and plan for future needs. Employees can see career path opportunities and attain an education that yields the best personal and professional benefits.

Businesses that strategically use their TAP benefits will encourage all employees and be able to increase diversity in their company. As women, people of different races and different ages are encouraged to seek education and training, businesses will benefit from the innovation and creativity that comes from diverse perspectives. Forty-four percent of businesses also offer cross-training to employees to develop skills that are not directly related to current positions, according to SHRM data. Using cross training as a strategic plan, businesses will find increased communication between departments and improved employee understanding of the total business service or production.

National Gains from Education Attainment

Persistence toward education attainment is valuable beyond individual or businesses advantage. Education is a key component in addressing economic and global issues. For the United States to remain a profitable leader in the global economy, the country needs to have workers who are educated and qualified to provide business strength. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) document “ConfinteaVI” stresses how important it is for individuals, businesses and all stakeholders to support education attainment. The financial gains are important at all levels of society. “It is estimated today that for every single year that the average level of education of the adult population is raised, there is a corresponding increase of 3.7 percent in long-term economic growth and a 6 percent increase in per capita income.” Beyond this economic advantage and in terms of the cost of education the document states, “Adult learning and education are much more than an item of social spending or financial expenditure. They are an investment in hope for the future.” http://unesdoc.unesco.orgmages/0018/001877/187789m.pdf