As a university president, I’d certainly like to think so. A recent study from economists at Princeton University seems to back up that claim — demonstrating that men and women who haven’t been to college live shorter, less healthy lives than college graduates.
According to the study, the death rate between the two groups is significant. Among 50-54-year-old men without a bachelor’s degree, for instance, the death rate is 867 per 100,000; yet only 243 per 100,000 for those who hold a college degree.
The big question is why.
While I like the image of a degree as a protective shield, it goes way beyond the power of a piece of paper. Researchers found that it’s also about more than just money – or financial stability (although that is certainly a contributing factor). The links between education and health deal with reported levels of job satisfaction, stress, and likelihood to engage in healthy behaviors like following doctors’ advice, following health news and research, eating healthy, exercising and quitting smoking — not to mention improved access to health insurance that often covers preventive services. Earning a college degree – or receiving career education or advanced skills training beyond high school – makes you more likely to have steady employment and to have a career. That in itself, say researchers, contributes to overall satisfaction and quality of life, reducing the likelihood of many behaviors that have shown to be detrimental.
We take the strong ties between education and health seriously at Shawnee State. We were created more than 30 years ago to make college possible for residents of our region — an area where degree attainment has long been below state and national averages. As an open access institution, we see firsthand the impact that education has on changing lives and feel privileged to be a part of helping families reach their goals.
We are also partners with the Scioto County Health Coalition in working on strategies to improve the health of our community. The problem is complex – and will take much more than education to move us from the lowest health rankings in the state to the highest — but we know that higher education is a vital part of the solution. The recent Princeton study reinforces our mission and role in creating a healthier community through degree programs tailored for different types of students — from recent high school graduates to working adults to veterans. That’s a challenge we are prepared to meet — for the good of all we serve.
Rick Kurtz is the President of Shawnee State University