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College Board Identifies Individual and Societal Benefits of Higher Education

November 4, 2004

The College Board’s new report, "Education Pays: The Benefits of Higher Education for Individuals and Society," documents that investment in higher education has significant monetary and non-monetary benefits for both the individual and society as a whole. The report brings together and summarizes the wide range of research that has been conducted on the topic.

Among the benefits to individuals is the likelihood of higher earnings in the workforce. Similarly, one of the societal benefits identified includes the fact that higher levels of education corresponds with lower levels of unemployment and poverty, and therefore not only are these adults less likely to depend on social safety-net programs, they are also likely to contribute more to tax revenues than others -- all leading to a decreased demand on public resources. Among the non-monetary societal benefits is the fact that college graduates have lower incarceration rates, are less likely to smoke, and tend to have higher rates of civic participation, including voting and volunteer work.

With these benefits in mind, it is important to understand the gaps still faced in higher education participation patterns.  Though college enrollment rates have greatly increased over the past several decades, there is still differentiation in participation among socioeconomic class and racial/ethnic groups. Those from low-income families; blacks and Hispanics; and those whose parents did not attend college are all less likely than their counterparts to enroll in college and earn a degree and therefore benefit from the monetary and non-monetary returns on higher education identified in the report.