Education Matters

On a regular basis, I write and speak about trends and forces in the education industry.  I spend a great deal of time scanning the environment to identify, understand, and place in context different cultural inflection points and their relationship to education.  I bone up on the changing educational landscape and how the great innovators and thought leaders are approaching their work.  But, I've never taken the time to articulate in a blog post why education matters to me, and should matter to all of us.  Today, I thought I would step back from the day to day of our industry and place my work - all of our work - in context.

Time and time again, education has demonstrated to us that it is the gold standard of investment.  From an economic standpoint, there is no better investment.  Whether it is pulling people out of a life of poverty or inspiring new job earnings, education performs like no other investment.  Consider these facts:

Median Earnings of College Graduates Are Nearly Double High School Graduates. The median weekly earning of a person holding a Bachelor's degree is roughly is roughly $1100, compared to just $600 for high school graduates.  And, weekly earnings drop to just over $400 for non high school graduates. 
Unemployment is Nearly Double for Non-College Graduates. The unemployment rate nearly doubles - from 4.2% to 8.3% - for people not earning at least a four year degree.  And, it increases to over 12% for those not graduating from high school.
A Four Year College Degree More Than Doubles Average Lifetime Earnings. A college graduate can expect to earn just over $1 million in a lifetime of employment, while high school graduates can expect to earn roughly $450K.  
Education is a Better Investment Than Stocks, Gold, or Housing. The rate of return on a college investment over a lifetime is roughly 15%, compared to 7% in the stock market, 3% in gold, or 2% in housing. 
The Rate of Poverty Dramatically Increases Without a College Degree.  The percentage of Americans living in poverty without a college degree is roughly 18%.  For college graduates, only 4% live in poverty.

The economic implications of education are undeniable.  No currency or investment has performed as well as education over time.  Education is the gold standard from an economic standpoint. 

But, what is the primary purpose of education?  This is the age old question.  Is the primary purpose of education for us to earn a living?  Or, is it to live a life?  Better yet, is it to change lives?  I'm not a fan of dualistic or exclusive thinking and tend to support the idea that it is all of these purposes, from economic, to identity, to transformation of the human race.  Education advances our understanding of ourselves within the context of our community.  It places front and center the age old common life questions of "who am I, why am I here, and what do I have to contribute" and demands us to grapple with these issues.  

What I know to be true is simple and straightforward. There are only two things in my life that I cannot lose.  They are my education and faith.  Collectively, they shape who I am, how I see the world, and how I function within it.  No one can take those two things away from me.  In an increasingly dangerous world of uncertainty, ambiguity, and fear, I can lose everything - my family, house, job, or investments.  But, you can't take away the way I see the world.  My story is unique to me.  It reflects my experiences, orientation, and understanding. And, education and faith are not just central, but they are singular in defining who I am in the world.  With those two sound investments, I can remain competitive and confident in an increasingly dangerous and uncertain world.

That's why education matters.  And, that's why I pour my life into it.  Education matters - in any brand, in any delivery mode, in any context.