In the U.S., people with a college degree make considerably more money than those whose education ended with high school. At the median, career earnings for a bachelor’s degree graduate are more than twice as high as for someone with only a high school diploma. According to a study at Northeastern University, the expected annual income for people with a doctorate is $97,916; those with a bachelor’s degree will earn $64,896; and those with only a high school degree $38,792. College graduates can expect to earn an average of a million dollars more than high school graduates over their lifetime.
Moreover, high school graduates are at least twice as likely as college graduates to be unemployed. When, for example, unemployment reached its peak in 2010, recent college graduates experienced an unemployment rate of 6.9 percent, compared with a jobless rate of 15.8 percent for all young workers.
All that said, the most important reason for a college education is not increased income. It is learning to think. Each scholarly discipline offers a unique mode of thought. The reasoning at the core of mathematics is radically different from that of the study of English. The thinking patterns in languages other than English, especially Asian and African languages, offer the student ways of thinking not available anywhere else. Engineering, medicine, music, and literature all require learning to think in modes not applicable to other disciplines.
I am persuaded by my own experience that learning to think in multiple modes is the best way to harness the mind and, in effect, increase one’s intelligence. That’s the gift of education. And it’s worth far more than an increase in income.