What’s The Value of Higher Ed? Cultivating Engaged Citizens

By AGB EDITOR November 12, 2018 May 11th, 2021 Blog Post

Last month, we explored the value that colleges and universities contribute to the economy by fostering innovation, developing an able and competent workforce, and providing a space for entrepreneurship. This month, it feels appropriate to highlight the value of higher education to our country’s civic society. College graduates contribute to the world more than just dollars and cents—they contribute to a healthy democracy. Voting is one of the most important activities available to the public, and college graduates do so in record numbers. Just as importantly, college graduates engage in the political process by running for office.

As advocates for higher education, trustees can share these facts. Here are a few statistics that demonstrate how higher education develops engaged citizens at the polls.

College graduates turn out to vote. At every age category, from 18 to over 65, the greater the level of education, the higher the voting rate. College graduates understand the importance that voting has on the country and continuously express their preferences. In the 2014 state and federal midterm elections, the voting rate among citizens ages 18 to 44 who had a bachelor’s degree (or higher) were more than DOUBLE the voting rate of citizens who attended only high school. That gap has grown since 1965.

And it’s not just about the major elections—some 75% of college graduates regularly vote in local elections. Only 50% of those with a high school education vote in local government.

College graduates run for office. It’s much more likely that those running for political office will have a college degree. Half of all political candidates have a bachelor’s degree, which is disproportionate to the number of adults in the US with a college degree, sitting at roughly 27%. Graduates feel prepared to face open-ended challenges and tackle difficult questions head on—the kind of thinking necessary for office.

What’s the value of higher ed? Over the next several months, the AGB Guardians Initiative will help trustees answer that question through a series of media campaigns to demonstrate higher education’s enduring value to graduates, communities, the economy, and the future of our nation. Learn more here.
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