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The Daily Cardinal Est. 1892
Tuesday, October 03, 2023

College 101: The Impact of Education

I was raised by my parents to really value education. To me, education has always been an inherent good. But in other parts of my family, this attitude isn’t the norm. I love all of my family members, but they don’t all share my values, and some of my cousins have never cracked a book in their lives!

But many of those cousins are doing just fine, and some of them are making great money at various jobs that didn’t require them to get a degree. So I find myself questioning things a bit: how much does an education matter?

Education matters enormously, both here in America and around the world. In general, educated people enjoy enormous advantages over their less educated peers. That’s not the same as saying that all educated people are better than all uneducated ones. That’s not the case, of course, and it’s perfectly possible for a less educated individual to be as happy, wealthy, and successful--if not more so--than a more educated one. But when we look at the situation at scale, there’s no way around it: education matters!

It starts when we’re very young. Studies are clear on the impact of early childhood education: it can do everything from make you more likely to be rich to make you less likely to commit a crime! In many ways, our learning opportunities as toddlers can shape our lives for a long time to come.

Of course, we still have a life of learning ahead of us. Grade school is important, too: learning gains happen the most quickly here, and children acquire vital learning and social skills they’ll rely on for the rest of their lives.

Once we’ve moved past high school, we can begin to see the financial impact of an education, too. High school grads (who don’t attend college) make more than $10,000 more a year than their degree-less counterparts. And, as you might guess, the trend continues with college: a college degree gives its bearer a salary $17,500 per year higher than the average high school graduate’s, and that number is rising.

Though the numbers change, this same basic logic applies to technical college and certificate programs. And undergraduate college degrees can set students up to head on to professional schools for everything from medicine and nursing to law and business--lucrative choices all. With the emergence of online degrees, it’s becoming easier than ever for anyone to get back in the classroom and earn their degree, regardless of age or time constraints.

Even our emotions and happiness may be affected by our education. Though findings are mixed, some studies seem to a show a correlation between our education level and wellbeing.

In short, there is every reason to believe that education is vital and life-changing. There will always be exceptions to every rule, but your values are right on: education is important.

“Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.” -- Mahatma Gandhi

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