There are many clichés about the importance of education. Education is the key, Education is fundamental, a mind is a terrible thing to waste. Well I happen to agree with these statements, education is very important and it has certainly made a difference in my life. Education involves more than just the classroom, but in the context of this discussion I am referring to a college education.
In my work with homeless women, one of the commonalities is low education levels. Many of them did not graduate from high school. Some have their high school diploma but are not focused on pursuing higher education. Honestly, I only have a few that are interested in furthering their education beyond high school. I facilitate a weekly group meeting with the women at the shelter. Whenever we discuss education I am very disheartened by the conversation. The most interesting thing to me is that most of the women do not see the value in pursuing an education. I have heard time and time again about their uncle who works at the plant (auto industry) and makes a lot of money, the one person they know or heard about who has a degree and still can’t find a job, and the list of celebrities who dropped out of high school but still became millionaires. One meeting we asked what is your dream job, and every single woman put Ford, GM, Chrysler, or working in the plant. Now I am in no way putting down the auto industry, my father worked in the auto industry for over 30 years and retired from Ford. He provided a good home for me and I love him for it. However, those days are over, especially for this younger generation. They do not pay the same wages for “line” work as they used to. In addition, Industrial and manufacturing is back breaking work that is very hard on your body. Working in a plant is not a dream job or a career, but it is the only job that most of them know that pays a decent wage. Their answers were based on limited information. It is not that they do not have access to education, it is that THEY DO NOT KNOW THE VALUE OF EDUCATION. A college education seems so far out of their reach. However, it IS within their reach, once their eyes of understanding are opened. Well I am here to open YOUR eyes of understanding.
If you make a purposeful choice not to pursue your education that is one thing. If you have a talent or natural skill that you pursue that will bring you fulfillment and success that is wonderful. But if you do not purse your education because you do not know that it is important, that is where the problem lies. I want to encourage you to pursue your education and give you some reasons why it is important.
Here are ten reasons why education is important.
- It increases your earning potential – Here is an income scale from the Bureau of Labor Statistics for 2015, showing the average income for various levels of education. Annual Salaries:
No High School Diploma – $23,664 High School Diploma – $32,544
Associates Degree – $38,304 Bachelor’s Degree – $54,576
Master’s Degree – $64,368 Doctoral Degree – $77,904
Here is a comparison of the type of degree/career and the associated income from Time magazine.
Bachelor’s Degree Major
Liberal Arts and Humanities $36,237
All (average) $45,478
- It gives you options – Some people are stuck in “dead end” jobs, a job with no opportunity for advancement. Some are stuck in jobs they hate. Some have decent jobs but could never make the same amount of money in another company. If the company they worked for went out of business, downsized, or had a major lay off they would not be able to find employment with a comparable income so easily. When you have a college degree and a career as opposed to a job, you have options. You can move around to different companies and move up in the company you are in.
- It teaches you discipline – When you are a student you have to be disciplined. You need good time management to juggle classes, study time, your job (if you work), and your family life. You can’t just watch TV and sleep, you don’t have time to sit around getting high all day, and you don’t have time for nonsense. You become a more disciplined, purposeful person when you are focused on your studies. And the good thing is discipline will spill over into other areas of your life.
- It shows that you “complete” things – We all know people who have a college degree who are no smarter than anyone else. We all also know people who do not have a college degree and are smarter than everyone we know. Possessing a college degree does not mean that you are smart nor intelligent for sure, some are, some are not, however what it does show is that you complete things. It takes work, commitment, and persistence to complete a college degree. You have to attend class, complete assignments, work in groups, meet requirements, and handle the financing. Do you often start things but never finish? Let your education be the start of breaking that cycle.
- It increases your network – One of the characteristics of the families in poverty that I work with is they often have no network, or they have a draining one. Everyone they know is in the same position as them. Nobody has any money, nobody has resources, some have no job and some have low paying jobs. They inform each other where to get resources – what agency is providing housing, what church is giving food, what organization gives clothes, who is doing a back to school give-a-way. Their resources are always tied to an organization, not a person. Well this is another benefit of a college education, you meet people, make friends, and build relationships with people who have something to offer. When you graduate and move into the world of working, you will have a network of people who are in positions of leadership, and are doing major things in the world. And the best thing is you will have these things too and also have something to offer. If you don’t have a positive network, create one. And one of the best ways to do that is by attending college.
- It makes you well rounded – When you attend college you have to take some classes that are called electives. Electives are classes that are not related to your major. These are classes in subjects such as art, history, cultural studies, and even social work. Each of these could be a person’s major, but if not they are considered electives. Taking classes in areas that are not your major makes you a well-rounded person. This is part of what makes you “smart,” having knowledge about a variety of things in life. I like to throw out little nuggets of information at parties and gatherings. It is fun to show out with a little knowledge sometimes!
- It exposes you to different cultures – I am an African American woman, and I absolutely love being Black. But I also love to learn about other cultures. Learning about other cultures opens up your world and reminds you there are other people, places, and things in this world. We can be so engrossed in our own race, culture, and community that we are blind to what all is going on in the world. Being exposed to other cultures also helps in the fight against racism. People fear what they do not know. The more we learn about each other and spend time together, the more we realize how much we are alike. In addition to learning about other cultures, you may have class mates, group partners, and professors who are of another race. The more time you spend with them, the more comfortable you will become. Before you know it, racial barriers will begin to fall and you may even make some new friends in different cultures.
- It makes you polished – In college you study, research, and complete a lot of assignments. The more information you absorb the more knowledgeable and mature you become. The more assignments and classes you complete, the more confident you become. The more presentations you give, the better you speak and present yourself. I have always wanted to be an intelligent, beautiful, and classy woman. That is my goal. And my education has assisted me in accomplishing that goal. College makes you polished, it smooths the rough edges. Before you know it, you may not even recognize yourself!
- It gives you something to be proud of – Wouldn’t it be nice to say you have your college degree in engineering, nursing, education, sociology, business administration, accounting, public administration, political science, law, or whatever you decide to pursue. You can hold your head high and know that you accomplished your education all on your own. Then you will have a legal, respectable, and marketable career that will provide you with an income that will support you and your family.
- It creates a positive cycle for your children – Academically it’s called a cycle of poverty, spiritually it’s called a generational curse, psychologically it’s called a pathology, no matter what you call it the point is that how we live our lives sets up a pattern for our children. What do you want your child to see in your life, and what do you want them to repeat? I have some things in my past that I DO NOT want my daughter to repeat. I had my first child at the age of fourteen, and I do not want that for her. So, over the last 15 years I have made some major changes in my life. And one of them is that I completed my education. It took me 11 years but in 2005 I completed my Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration and then in 2011 I completed my Master’s degree in Social Work. When I graduated my daughter was right by my side. I told her “now you have an example, no excuses, I expect the same from you.”
If you are in the process of trying to change the course of your life for the better. If you are low income and want to increase your income and the quality of your life. If you are tired of working a “job” and want a “career.” If you are a parent and want to set a good example for your child. If you are a young person and trying to decide what to do after graduating high school. Then I highly encourage you to pursue your college education. There are NO guarantees in this world, NONE. However, having a college degree highly increases your chances for success. And the most we can do is to increase our odds in this world.