By David R. HOPKINS and DAN E. KRANE
Never before has the value of a college education been questioned more. With tuition and student debt on the rise, many have posed the question: Is a college education really worth the expense? The answer is a resounding yes.
Over a lifetime, individuals with a bachelor’s degree make 84 percent more than those with only a high school diploma (“The College Payoff”). And those numbers improve even further for individuals with master’s, doctoral and other professional degrees.
Even during the recent recession, college graduates were more likely to stay employed. Nearly 4 out of every 5 jobs destroyed by the recession were held by workers with a high school diploma or less (“The College Advantage: Weathering the Economic Storm”).
The reality is that a college degree has never been more important than in today’s global economy. For Ohio to compete nationally and internationally, we must have an educated workforce. And yet, when it comes to educational attainment, Ohio is lagging behind. According to 2011 Census data, only 35.5 percent of Ohio’s 6.1 million working-age adults (ages 25-64) hold a two- or four-year college degree. That’s below the national average of 38.7 percent.
Those statistics become even more alarming when you consider that the days of earning a decent wage with only a high school degree are long behind us. By 2020, 59 percent of jobs will require a career certificate or college degree (“Complete College America”). For Ohio to thrive we must invest in our single most important resource: our workforce. Higher education is the down payment on that investment.
DWINDLING FUNDING, GREATER NEED
As state budgets have become more strapped, funding for higher education continues to dwindle. With individuals absorbing more and more of the costs for their college educations, we must remember that society as a whole also benefits from an educated workforce — not just the individuals who are being educated. The founders of our democracy counted on an educated citizenry because education produces critical thinkers, effective communicators and a safeguard against government excesses. C ollege graduates are more likely to vote, support cultural and community activities, and have reduced health-care costs due to their healthier lifestyles. And, the greater tax base that comes with higher salaries translates directly to dollars in Ohio’s budget.
We owe it to all past, present and future Ohioans to attract and train an educated workforce. College-educated or not, it is in all of our best interests to make higher education accessible and appealing to all to ensure the future vitality of this great state.
David R. Hopkins is president of Wright State University; Dan E. Krane is president of Wright State University Faculty.