Education for Life

July 22, 2013 — Dr. Dustin Swanger

As the President of Fulton-Montgomery Community College, you’ve come to expect that I would encourage our citizens to get an education (and to do so at FM). I have written in the past about the importance of education and its relationship to workforce development, to preparing for the new economy, and to participating in a high technology society. However, there are other reasons to gain an education that are equally as important.

Higher education serves to prepare people to live productively in our society, to prepare people to be leaders, and to prepare people for work. In this article, I would like to discuss that first purpose: to prepare people to live productively in our society. The greater the level of education someone possesses, the greater productivity that individual will have throughout their lifetime.

Let’s look at some data. As I have stated before, those with an education are far more likely to work in today’s economy. The Department of Labor, Bureau of Statistics, cites that in February 2011, the unemployment rate for those with less than a high school education was 14.2%; while at that same time those with a bachelor’s degree or higher was 4.2% – a 10% difference in the unemployment rate!  While it has gotten better, the difference is still significant. In June 2013, the unemployment rate for those with less than a high school diploma was 9.7%, those with some college or an associate’s degree was 6.4%, and those with a bachelor’s degree or higher was 3.9%.

There is also a direct correlation between education and health. Economists David Cutler and Adriana Lleras-Muney conducted a study of education rates and disease and found a direct linkage. They concluded that the more education an individual possesses, the less likely he/she is to suffer from heart condition, stroke, hypertension, high cholesterol, diabetes, asthma, etc.  It appears that those with higher education levels live healthier lifestyles including better nutrition, healthy activities, stable family life, etc. Additionally these individuals pass these behaviors to their children. The study did conclude that cancer seems to be blind to education levels.

Education levels also affect mortality rates. The American Sociological Association concluded that those middle aged adults with low education levels are twice as likely to die early than those with a college education. Clearly there is a relationship between the health study and the mortality study. But none-the-less, it becomes clear that education contributes to our healthy lives in many ways.

While being healthy and living longer are important, there is also a fiscal effect on our society. Those with low education levels, who tend to be more chronically ill, cost the healthcare system a great deal of money. Read that, “they cost our society a great deal of money.” Now, I’m not suggesting that we cut-off healthcare to the uneducated, but what I am suggesting is that we, as a society, need to do everything we can to encourage our citizens to acquire as high a level of education as they can achieve. It is good for our economy, health, and tax rates. Investing in education today will save us cost in healthcare for the future.

Dr. Swanger is President of FM.

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