On May 15, 2011, the Pew Research Center released a study entitled “Is College Worth It?” which discussed the results of surveys done with college presidents and the general public on the value, quality and mission of higher education.

According to the Pew Research Center study, a majority of Americans say that the higher education system fails to provide good value for the money and a declining share of Americans agree that a college education is affordable. However, of the college graduates surveyed, an overwhelming majority say college has been a good investment for them personally.

In today’s global economy, graduating from high school and going on to postsecondary education is critical for students to have the greatest professional options and opportunities. College is one of the many pathways and other postsecondary programs teach students the skills they need to pursue a specific career such as nursing, mechanics or computer technology. If the skills and abilities of two prospective employees are equal, often a college degree or other postsecondary education can be the determining factor for who gets hired.

Some current questioning about the value of college has stemmed from the difficult job market in recent years and rising tuition costs.  However, despite the currently tough job market, it is worse for those who did not go to college. The graph to the left shows the unemployment rates for workers 25 and older by education level, illustrating how people with advanced education are unemployed at much lower rates than those without it.

In addition, college graduates generally earn more money than those without a college degree, and that difference in earnings has widened in the last few decades: the inflation-adjusted pay of college graduates has risen, and the inflation-adjusted pay of every other group has fallen. Without question, quality of life, income, and opportunities continue to be directly linked with educational achievement.

Additionally, a survey of recent graduates from the Heldrich Center at Rutgers has determined that college is, in fact, “worth it.” Nearly three-quarters of recent graduates said they believed their degree was as valuable now as they thought it would be when they first enrolled in college. Additionally, respondents said that their college education did well in preparing them to be successful in their job after college.

Although some may ask the question, the conclusion is clear: postsecondary education is worth it. If we give every Arizona student the option to pursue some form of postsecondary education, more will have access to the best opportunities and a higher quality of life. It’s our job as Arizonans to ensure our students are ready and able to succeed by raising expectations for our students, our schools and ourselves when it comes to education in our state.