Staying competitive

Higher education is an investment in Ohio’s future leaders

With the national dialogue often focused on the rising cost of a college degree, higher education must raise its collective voice in conversations questioning whether a college degree is worth the investment.

The facts are clear: there is no better value, no greater investment in one’s future than a college degree. College graduates earn nearly $1 million more in lifetime earnings than those who have a high school diploma, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. A study by the Pew Research Center revealed that adults with a high school diploma are nearly four times more likely to face unemployment or to live in poverty than those with a college degree. In addition to the wage and employment benefits, jobs for those with a baccalaureate degree typically offer retirement savings accounts, heath care benefits and paid vacation time. The evidence is clear: the long-term financial benefits of a higher education far outweigh its cost.

Bold thinking

In Ohio, we face a serious “talent gap” that threatens our state’s continued economic competitiveness and growth. By 2025, two-thirds of Ohio jobs will require a college degree or postsecondary certificate. Today, only 29 percent of Ohioans have a bachelor’s degree — below the national average of 32 percent, according to statistics from the National Center for Higher Education Management Systems.

Ohio’s four-year public universities are working hard to broaden access, improve affordability and increase degree completion for our residents. As an example, in the last academic year, Kent State University graduated more than 10,000 students with needed skills in nursing, business, applied science, public health and many more.

The quest for a college degree or postsecondary certificate must remain the goal of all Ohioans who wish to participate in the future success of our state. While state leaders have earmarked millions of dollars to address opiate addiction, the full impact of this funding toward solving the crisis will be marginalized without educated minds to provide the bold thinking and critical research needed to achieve a solution. An educated workforce is needed to solve this problem and other challenges we face. We need more innovators and entrepreneurs to move our state forward, and public universities serve as the key incubators for these job creators of the future.

A smart investment

College provides students with a porthole to the world and all of its possibilities. The college experience enables students to discover their passions and determine their purpose.

Kent State students’ lives are enriched — even transformed — by their college experience. Their intellectual and personal growth is immeasurable, and they graduate to become key contributors to our businesses and leaders in our communities.

Our state universities play an invaluable role in preparing critical thinkers, creative entrepreneurs and innovative leaders who are not only prepared for our workforce needs today, but also for their roles as the creators of the jobs of tomorrow. A college degree pays a lifetime of dividends and creates engaged global citizens committed to bettering our society. That is a smart investment.

Beverly Warren oversees one of the nation’s largest university systems as Kent State’s eight campuses provide more than 300 academic programs to more than 41,000 undergraduate and graduate students from throughout Ohio and the nation, and from more than 100 countries.