We stand up for a Massachusetts where everyone gets a fair shot, does and pays their fair share, and plays by the same rules.
It comes as no surprise that going to college leads to paying jobs and more financial security. But what is quite surprising is just how much more college graduates make – and reinforces the notion that we must do a better job at expanding access to higher education from the beginning.
Yesterday, the New York Times published the results of a study showing, among other things, that people with a bachelor’s degree earn 98% more on average than people without a degree. As we hope to foster an America where everyone gets a fair shot, we can’t ignore the education gaps that prevent many from going to college, especially given this new data.
This is the largest income gap in recent history between those with a degree and those without one.
It’s especially strange given that the number of college graduates has increased over the past few years. Basic supply-and-demand theory would hold that if you have more supply (college graduates in this case) that should mean lower prices (in the form of wages) leading to more parity between salaries. The fact that the gap is increasing despite this indicates that the demand for college graduates has still not been met.
The study revealed other important data for calculating the value of a college education as well. The most striking conclusion is that the unemployment rate for people between the ages of 25 and 34 who have a bachelor’s degree is only 3%, far below the national unemployment rate. Combine that with the increased salary, and you have a fairly optimistic picture of the future for current students – even as many worry about their prospects.
As the Times analysis of this study notes, while college remains “the golden ticket to the middle class and beyond,” it is not a cure-all for America’s economic inequality problems. Sending more Americans to college won’t reduce corporate power and abuse and won’t improve the lives of people who don’t go to college. However, increasing access to college education will empower the middle class and increase social mobility, and on an individual level, it’s an economic slam-dunk.
When we look at this problem of getting more kids into college, we tend to look at solutions relatively close to graduation. We try to give kids internships, summer jobs, and student loans (which sometimes aren’t even helpful).
But there is case to be made that our investments should also be made much earlier to start students on a path that gives more the opportunity to attend college.
This is where investment in early education comes in. The studies show that kids who get a high quality preschool education do better in school, have a reduced need for special education, drop out of school at lower rates, and yes, go to and do better in college relative to kids who don’t attend preschool.
In addition, kids who go to preschool establish healthy lifestyles and end up with better long-term health than kids who don’t go. Working parents who don’t have to worry about placing their children in private preschool have an easier time finding and holding jobs. Kids who stay in school commit juvenile crimes at far lower rates, reducing the strain on police departments and schools.
In fact, most estimates show that investing in early education can lead to money being saved in the long run. These savings are mostly derived from the positive impacts of early education canceling out the need for extra services later on. In particular, the impact of early education on juvenile crime rates saves states a lot of money; it’s much cheaper to pay for preschools than it is to pay for prisons. It should also be stressed that these analyses only take into account the impact on state expenditures; they don’t include the positive economic impacts of early education, ranging from the immediate boost in parent employment to the long-term benefits derived from sending more kids to college.
It’s clear that sending people to college is a good thing—a degree is an express ticket up the economic totem pole. It’s also clear that the opportunity to go to college starts young. With an investment in early education, states not only get the benefits of an even start for all their kids, but the benefits of higher education as well.
By Jameson Moore