10 Surprising Ways a College Education Will Improve Your Life


Sure, we've all heard the statistics about the lifetime earnings power of having a college degree. But if you or the people around you are doing okay without college, perhaps you think a degree is unnecessary. This might be true in some cases (I've written a post recently that defends the argument against a college degree), but research also shows that a college education can improve your life in more ways than one.

Ultimately, though, it's your choice. So before you close the book on higher education, here are 10 surprising benefits of going to college to consider:

1. You'll Earn More Money

Graduates with a bachelor's degree earn about a million dollars more over their lifetimes than those with only some college education and a high school diploma. A Pew Research Center study on college-educated Millennials reports that college graduates between the ages of 25 and 34 working full-time earn roughly $17,000 more a year. And according to College Board's Education Pays Study 2013, the average "college graduate who enrolls at age 18 and graduates in four years can expect to earn enough by age 36 to compensate for being out of the labor force for four years."

2. You'll Acquire More Assets

Since college graduates on average earn more than their peers with a high school diploma, they typically have more assets. According to the USC Center for Higher Education Policy Analysis, people who attend some form of college usually save more of their money. They also have more assets, such as homes, cars, and investments.

3. You'll Face a Lower Unemployment Rate

Although there's no such thing as true job security (ask anyone you know… except your tenured professors), the unemployment rate is lower among those with a college education. The Pew Research Center study found that only 3.8% of those with a bachelor's degree were unemployed in 2012, compared with 8.1% of those with an associate degree or some college and 12.2% of those with a high school diploma. The percent of those living in poverty with a bachelor's degree and high school diploma were 5.8% and 21.8%, respectively. You don't have to be a math major to note the discrepancy.

4. You're More Likely to Have a Pension

A college education also increases the likelihood of enjoying a comfortable, more secure retirement. The College Board study reports that in 2011 only 52% of full-time employees were offered pension plans by their employers. Meanwhile, 65% of employees with a bachelor's degree and 73% of employees with advanced degrees were provided with pensions.

Even if your company doesn't offer a pension plan (which is becoming more and more common, by the way), earning more with a college education puts you in a better position to open a 401K or IRA and contribute a greater percentage of your income.

5. You're More Likely to Have Health Insurance

If you don't have health insurance, it only takes one medical emergency to completely ruin your financial life or wipe out your savings account. This is less likely to happen if you have a college education. The College Board found that people with at least a bachelor's degree were more likely to receive health insurance through an employer. In 2011, employers only provided health insurance to 55% of full-time employees with a high school diploma, whereas 69% of employees with bachelor's degrees and 73% of employees with advanced degrees received coverage.

6. You'll Live a Healthier Lifestyle (After You Graduate, of Course)

There's a connection between a college education and a healthier lifestyle. In 2012, only 8% of people with at least a four-year degree were smokers, compared to 25% of high school graduates and those without a high school diploma.

College graduates also were less likely to be obese. Looking only at adults between the ages of 25 and 34, the study found that 68% of college graduates engaged in vigorous exercise at least once a week, compared to only 40% of high school graduates. Because college-educated people typically adopt healthier habits, they also live longer.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), "Men without a high school diploma have a life expectancy 9.3 years less than those with at least a bachelor's degree, whereas women without a high school diploma had a life expectancy 8.6 years less than those with at least a bachelor's degree."

7. You're Able to Spend More Time With Your Children

A college education may also improve your family life, giving you more quality time with your children. College Board reports that mothers with a four-year college degree spend on average about "51% more time on their children's activities than employed mothers with only a high school education." For those mothers with children under the age three, the amount of playtime spent with their children also increased with education.

8. You're Less Likely to Live With Your Parents

College-educated adults are more likely to be financially independent and less reliant on their parents (after college, that is). In 2012, only 12% of college-educated Millennials lived in their parents' home, compared with 16% of those with a two-year degree or some college, and 18% of high school graduates, says the Pew Research Center.

9. You'll Experience a Higher Rate of Career Satisfaction

If you're in a dead-end job, you might hate going to work every day, and your job might impact your day-to-day happiness. Although a college degree doesn't guarantee you'll enjoy your work, research proves that career satisfaction increases with the level of education. Among workers between the ages of 30 to 45, "51% of those with at least a bachelor's degree reported being very satisfied with their work, compared to only 42% of those without a high school diploma, and 47% of those with a high school diploma," reports College Board.

10. You'll Gain the Ability to Make Better Decisions

Interestingly enough, a college education can help you become a savvier, more informed consumer. College doesn't only provide book knowledge to help you succeed in a particular field, it also teaches critical-thinking and problem-solving skills. You learn the importance of weighing the pros and cons before making a decision, and you're more likely to compare rates and prices, which helps you save money.

Did you go to college? What other ways has a college education improved your life? Let me know in the comments below.

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Guest's picture

Going to college cost me quite a bit of money/seniority in my chosen field of aviation. I had a particularly bad schedule at the airline I was working for and decided to finish my degree to make me more competitive with the major airlines. I graduated with a degree in sociology from NC State, forever changing my political alignment and social views. No regrets.

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