Don’t think stories about higher education aren’t worth it

More and more across the country, there is a growing feeling that a college education is not worth the time or the money. These opinions persist even though data repeatedly shows us that increased education leads to increased income over a person’s lifetime, and this is just one of the many benefits that a higher education can. to offer.

Prospective students are inundated with high-profile stories about extreme student debt and anecdotes from graduate students returning to low-paying jobs after graduation. Online personalities profess the ease of making a living without a certificate or diploma and that their followers “can do it too.” These and other tales create a compelling but false counter-narrative to the reality of higher education.

A soon to be released report from the Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute at the University of Utah illustrates the reality that an individual’s investment in their education may be the best investment they make in their lifetime. her life to increase her income and improve her life and the outcomes of their families for generations to come.

As the report notes, “occupations that require some level of higher education are expected to grow faster over the next few years. Most of the occupations that are expected to grow the fastest require [education beyond high school], while those who are expected to decline the fastest have minimum educational requirements.

This evidence demands urgent action on the part of individual and educational systems and industry.

Utah’s private sector is growing rapidly, and with it, the need to strengthen partnerships with our education system to ensure students are connected to well-paying and in-demand professions.

For individuals, having more than high school education greatly increases the likelihood of finding a job. And businesses need access to skilled workers for the economy to continue to thrive. The link between certificates and degrees and jobs will be increasingly critical in the years to come as the state’s population grows and its foothold in the U.S. economy deepens.

One of the ways the Utah higher education system fosters partnerships with industry is its involvement with the Point of the Mountain State Land Authority in the development of the state’s 600-acre property. Entitled “The Point”, this property will serve as an ecosystem that will advance technological innovation, foster a start-up environment and facilitate meaningful relationships between universities, businesses and entrepreneurs.

Utah’s public colleges serve students from all counties in the state, rural and urban, and award numerous degrees and certificates each year (over 55,000 in the 2020-21 academic year), preparing more students in various career fields.

Technical college programs ensure that graduates acquire skills in demand for local jobs through direct supervision from industry leaders. Utah degree-granting institutions also provide graduates with in-demand skills for jobs statewide, although they have different assignments, offer different degrees and certificates, and serve different populations.

Utah graduates are not only more likely to be employed, but they are also more likely to be in higher paying jobs.

From 2011 to 2016, Utah’s public technical college cohorts experienced an average salary growth of 59.3% ($ 10,850) over the previous year after earning a one-year certificate. or two years. Graduates of public degree-granting institutions in Utah have also seen their incomes rise: those who receive a certificate earn about $ 6,000 more per year than those who graduate from high school in the first year following. obtaining their certificate. For bachelor’s graduates, this impact almost doubled to $ 12,000 per year. Earnings increases are even bigger for college graduates and are expected to continue to grow throughout their careers.

A recent Pew Research report, “The Rising Cost of Not Going to College,” notes that the income gap between those with and without a college education is increasing compared to previous generations, underscoring the need and value of education. after high school, whether it is a certificate, baccalaureate or higher degree.

It’s time to change the discourse on higher education and get back to what higher education really is: a monumental opportunity for sustainable individual and economic growth from the Wasatch Front to the most remote corners of our state for generations to come. to come.

Dave R. Woolstenhulme | Commissioner of Higher Education, Utah System of Higher Education

Dave R. Woolstenhulme, Ed.D., became Commissioner of Higher Education on July 1, 2020 for the Utah Higher Education System, where he provides state-level direction and oversight of the 16 public colleges and universities of Utah.

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