The College Board recently released its Education Pays 2010 report, documenting all of the ways individuals and society benefit from their investment in higher education. Once again, the numbers paint a conclusive picture.
Education is an imperative. And the Kansas higher education community is doing a terrific job in managing the investment in education, considering the financial pressures on public and private colleges alike.
The economic case for investment in education is strong. Individuals with bachelor's degrees earn more than twice as much as those with high school diplomas — $55,700 per year compared with $21,900 per year in 2008. In 2009, the unemployment rate for college graduates was 4.6 percent, compared with 9.7 percent for those with high school diplomas and nearly 15 percent for those who didn't complete high school.
State and federal governments benefit from investments in college education as well, through greater tax revenues and lower spending on social and public assistance programs. College graduates are more likely to exercise and lead healthier lifestyles, resulting in lower health care costs for the individual and society. They also are more likely to vote and be engaged in their communities.
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With all of these benefits, one might think college enrollment would be rising significantly, but this is not the case. From 1998 to 2008, the college enrollment rate for high school graduates increased from 51 to 55 percent for those from the lowest income levels, declined from 63 to 61 percent for those in the middle-income ranges, and rose from 79 to 80 percent for those at the highest income levels.
Given the state of the U.S. economy, can we afford to invest more in education? It should be clear by now that our nation is at peril if we do not.
Even though we see story after story complaining about the high cost of education, higher education institutions in Kansas are doing our best to educate students at all levels of ability and income while keeping costs as reasonable as possible. This includes the private sector, which contributes significantly to higher education in Kansas.
Newman University is proud to be affiliated with 17 other Kansas private colleges and universities that collectively enrolled 25,000 in the fall of 2010 and have seen head counts increase 13.5 percent over the past 10 years. Together we award 20.5 percent of the teacher education and 22.5 percent of the nursing degrees in the state.
Ninety-eight percent of our students receive financial aid of some sort, and 95 percent receive some institutional aid. For the past three years, tuition increases at these schools averaged 5 percent or less.
The estimated economic impact of our collective operating budgets across the state is about $1 billion. Yet the only support provided to the Kansas independent colleges and universities goes directly to our high-need students in the form of the Kansas Comprehensive Grant — a total of $8 million a year, representing 1 percent of the state's total annual expenditures on higher education.
That 1 percent generates 21 percent of the state's annual bachelor's degrees and 30 percent of its master's degrees. I can't imagine a better return on investment for our state and our communities.
Imagine how many more low-income students we might serve if the state invested just 1 percent more in the students attending Kansas independent colleges and universities.