More Than Money: Sell Your Students on the Value of a College Education

So if any of your students are convinced they'll make a fortune on the football field, become the next Kim Kardashian, or live off some benevolent relative's estate, try playing up these nonfinancial advantages of higher education to boost their interest in academic pursuits.

In today’s precarious economy, a college education will have a huge impact on your students’ financial future.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate among those with only a high school diploma is 10%. That figure jumps to nearly 15% for those who didn’t finish high school, but drops to 5% for those with a bachelor’s degree. For doctoral degrees it dwindles down to just 2%. And as a person’s education increases, so does his or her income. Obviously, the security of a steady paycheck is the primary benefit of higher education. But you may encounter students who need a little incentive beyond mere dollars and cents.

In a recent interview with NPR, Mike Rose, a professor of education at UCLA, discussed the secondary benefits of a college education. Rose surmises that college is not just about “learning things to make a living, but also learning things to enable you to do things with your life, to enable you to find interests and pursuits that may in some way or another expand the way we see things.”

So if any of your students are convinced they’ll make a fortune on the football field, become the next Kim Kardashian, or live off some benevolent relative’s estate, try playing up these nonfinancial advantages of higher education to boost their interest in academic pursuits.

Benefit #1: Create a social network

College is a great place to meet like-minded individuals and make lifelong friends. Many people even meet their future spouses on campus. Clubs, sororities and fraternities, and classes in their major provide countless opportunities for students to get to know people who share common interests. And equally important, as Mike Rose pointed out in the NPR interview, “you’re almost forced to have to deal with and encounter people who see the world in a very different way from your own.”

Group activities created in these settings can teach students to have productive discussions and argue effectively. Students may also meet fellow professionals in their future career fields, which allows them to create a network of contacts that will help them down the road. Indeed, college is the original social networking site.

Benefit #2: Be an informed member of society

Simply put, an educated person is a more informed person. College coursework inherently teaches critical thinking skills and encourages students to look at things in new ways. Perhaps the unexamined life is, in fact, worth living, but I would venture to say it’s not nearly as interesting as its fully examined counterparts.

Regardless of a student’s major, he or she will most likely take a fairly broad range of classes by the time graduation rolls around. Four years of exposure to diverse subjects can create well-rounded individuals who are better prepared to do things like make important life decisions, engage with coworkers, manage their finances, and even participate in politics. All those papers and class discussions will make them better writers and speakers and help them communicate more articulately in the real world. Let your students know that, even though they’ll be working toward a degree in a specific subject, the possibilities for learning life lessons and expanding their worldview are substantial.

Benefit #3: Leave a legacy

In addition to long-term monetary advantages such as job security and the attendant benefits and retirement funds, a college education can also lead to a better life for your students’ families, both now and in the years to come. Many schools offer scholarships, grants, or reduced tuition to the siblings of current or former students. And thinking further into the future, your students’ children may one day take advantage of alumni affiliation scholarships and grants, or in the case of some of the more elite institutions, legacy admission. Plus, children of college graduates are more likely to go to college than children of nongraduates, which is a legacy in and of itself.

True, a steady paycheck is perhaps the most desirable outcome of a college degree. But the knowledge, friendships, and life experiences can’t be quantified, and you can help get your students motivated about their college careers by stressing the importance of these additional benefits.

Get the conversation going with the College Admissions Data Sourcebooks, where you’ll find information on things like academic programs, athletics, and student activities and organizations.

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About Stephanie Farah

Stephanie Farah

Stephanie is a former writer and senior editor for Carnegie Darlet and CollegeXpress. Stephanie holds a BA in English from the University of Texas at Austin and a master's in Journalism from the University of North Texas. At various times she has been: an uncertain undergrad, a financial aid recipient, a transfer applicant, and a grad student with an assistantship and a full ride. Stephanie is an avid writer, traveler, cook, and dog owner. 

 

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