Key Facts


Women and Higher Education

  • A report from the Utah Department of Workforce Services stated, “While prior to 1990, Utah women showed a higher rate of college graduation than U.S. women, by 2000, Utah women had lost their ‘bachelor’s degree or higher’ educational edge. Utah shows by far the largest gap in the nation between male and female college-graduation rates.”
  • The Utah Foundation reports that, although the number of women in Utah with a bachelor’s degree or higher has slightly increased since 2000, percentages are not keeping pace with the nation. This is particularly troubling since Utah men earn bachelor’s degrees or higher at a rate that exceeds the national average.
  • Pamela Perlich, Senior Research Economist at the University of Utah’s Bureau of Economic and Business Research stated, “Utah women are slightly less likely to have college degrees than are women in the rest of the nation. This lower overall rate is the result of significantly lower educational attainment of Utah’s younger women…So, while Utah young women start college studies at above average rates, they are less likely to complete their degrees.”
  • National statistics show that, among those who attend college, more women (57 percent) enroll than men (43 percent). However, in Utah approximately 49 percent of higher education students are women, with the lowest percentages enrolled at the University of Utah (44 percent) and Utah Valley University (43 percent). Compared to all other states, Utah is last in terms of the percentage of female students enrolled in postsecondary institutions (Women and Higher Education in Utah: A Glimpse at the Past and Present).
  • Utah women graduate from business and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) programs substantially below their national peers (Women and Higher Education in Utah: A Glimpse at the Past and Present).
  • The certificate or degree programs that have the highest percentages of Utah women include certificate trade programs (e.g., cosmetology, massage, and culinary arts) that are focused on short-term postsecondary training rather than four-year degree programs (Women and Higher Education in Utah: A Glimpse at the Past and Present).

 


Benefits of Higher Education

  1. Health and Wellbeing
  2. Civic and Community Engagement
  3. Parenting
  4. Self-Development
  5. Intellectual and Cognitive Development
  6. Societal and Economic Outcomes

1. Health and Wellbeing

On average, better-educated women live longer and are more likely to enjoy healthier lives than their less educated peers. Researchers have found that “with the exception of black males, all recent gains in life expectancy at age 25 occurred among better-educated groups.” This is due primarily to an overall healthier lifestyle. College-educated individuals tend to smoke less, exercise more, and maintain a healthier diet. More educated women are less likely to be overweight or obese. Other studies report that educated individuals have lower alcohol abuse-dependency, lower cholesterol levels, and higher dietary fiber intake. One study found that “each additional year of schooling past high school seems to prolong life by 0.4 percent, or nearly 2 percentage points upon graduation from college.” Interestingly, not only do more educated women live longer, but Fox News recently reported that their spouses live longer as well.

In the book, How College Affects Students, the authors summarized hundreds of studies and concluded: “The evidence is also quite clear in suggesting that education attainment has positive net impacts on dimensions of life that, in turn, increase one’s sense of life satisfaction or overall happiness.” The enhanced quality of life linked with college-educated women contributes to their ability to be more resilient when faced with stressful situations. Communities that have a well-educated citizenry have fewer incidences of depression and suicide. In addition to being more informed about medical and mental health issues, educated women typically have the resources to pay for their family’s wellbeing. These resources include employer-provided health insurance and discretionary savings. Educational attainment has also been linked with more extensive social-support networks. These associations are typically positive and can provide comfort and assistance when needed, which can help reduce the effects of stressful circumstances and contribute to good mental health. Overall, college-educated women are more likely to live longer and happier lives than those who did not attend a higher education institution.

Click here for full brief with references: The Value of Higher Education for Women in Utah

 


2. Civic and Community Engagement

Women with college degrees demonstrate increased participation in civic and community involvement. Not only does higher education prepare a more ethically aware and contributing member of the community, but college graduates are more likely to vote than high school graduates by a 2:1 ratio. The College Board reported that in 2006 college graduates had a volunteer rate of 43 percent compared with 19 percent of high school graduates.

In fact, the median number of volunteer hours appears to increase with levels of education. This includes a National Health Interview Survey finding that college graduates are even more likely to donate blood. These trends, in part, can be explained by the finding that higher levels of education provide students opportunities to apply what they have learned in non-profit organizations and other community-based settings through internships and course-related service learning. Overall, more education clearly translates to a more prepared and conscientious civic participant and community volunteer.

Click here for full brief with references: The Value of Higher Education for Women in Utah

 


3. Parenting

There are many reasons why a college education contributes to better parenting. First, educated mothers are more likely to give birth to healthier babies, since they are less likely to consume alcohol or smoke, choices that set the foundation for the child’s future. Numerous researchers have found that there are increased risks of developmental and health problems for low-weight babies. One group of researchers found that children born below average weight had lower reading and math scores; however, “the independent net effect of maternal education appears to far outweigh the effect of MLBW [moderately low birth weight] as a predictor of children’s test scores.” Second, by elementary school, children of educated mothers are more prepared academically and more involved in extracurricular activities. In fact, academic preparation begins early. Women who earn college degrees spend more time reading to their children, and this activity has been found to contribute to academic success. More educated mothers also pay more attention to creating healthy lifestyles for their children. Third, more educated women who want/need to work part-time or full-time, can typically find employment that gives them higher salaries along with increased autonomy and flexibility. This allows them more opportunities for family-friendly work schedules, arrangements, and locations, which, in turn, can increase a working mother’s time with her children.

Finally, one study found that 39 percent of high-achieving high school students said their mothers were the “greatest influence in their lives,” and a mother’s educational background is foundational to her influence and expectations, as well as the aspirations her children form for their own educational and career goals. Research has shown that a mother’s expectations about the “eventual educational attainment of her children” are related to the children’s actual attainment. Children whose parents are college educated enter postsecondary institutions with higher degree aspirations, less self-doubt, and more knowledge of college enrollment and life. In fact, students of parents who have graduated from college are less than half as likely to withdraw before their second year. Education truly perpetuates education.

Click here for full brief with references: The Value of Higher Education for Women in Utah

 


4. Self-Development

College institutions historically seek to influence and promote self-understanding of individuals through targeted development of independence, interpersonal relationships, and leadership training. Most institutions provide opportunities for students to confront dogma and prejudice, which allows students to examine and develop the moral and ethical standards needed for occupational preparation. Research shows that higher education delivers sustained changes in psychosocial development as well as in attitudes and values.

First, college introduces psychosocial change in areas of academic and social self-concept and self-esteem. Students develop a better sense of independence and feeling of control over their lives, which influences their interpersonal and leadership skills. Students who persisted into the upper-division years or continued on to graduate work received the greatest benefits of psychosocial change. The students who pursued graduate education exhibited lower levels of stress compared to college seniors. Most notable is the sustainability of the psychosocial change. In fact, nearly a decade later, the effects of college on self-concept were still apparent and personally integrated.

Second, studies of college’s effects on student attitudes and values fall generally into the following categories:

      • sociopolitical dispositions,
      • civic and community involvement,
      • racial-ethnic attitudes,
      • gender roles,
      • religious attitudes and values,
      • interest in culture and the arts, and
      • educational and occupational values.

Researched evidence confirms that college attendance impacts students’ sociopolitical attitudes and values as well as civic and community engagement, as mentioned previously. The demonstrated change is sustainable well into the adult years and typically continues into old age. Studies have also shown that college helps individuals increase awareness, dialogue, and involvement in racial understanding, openness to diversity and gender-role attitudes, and certain aspects of the political process. College education abates prejudice and promotes increased interest in world affairs and social issues. In addition, longitudinal studies clearly identify the positive, principled moral reasoning advantages of higher education during college and beyond.

College graduates also find occupations and lifestyles that offer greater intellectual stimulation than those with only high school diplomas. Through education, students seek and obtain personal and job competence in problem solving, judgment, and interpersonal skills. In summary, the Carnegie Foundation reports that the benefits of higher education include “the tendency for postsecondary students to become more open-minded, more cultured, more rational, more consistent and less authoritarian; these benefits are also passed along to succeeding generations.”

Click here for full brief with references: The Value of Higher Education for Women in Utah

 


5. Intellectual and Cognitive Development

Intellectual and cognitive development is a positive by-product of higher education for women. Today’s students are preparing for jobs that may not currently exist. In order to succeed in a complex global work environment, women need the training and skill base of a strong education in order to respond effectively to the dynamics of changing technologies. A broad educational experience provides the communication skills as well as creative and critical thinking skills necessary to perform in an economy that demands its workers develop habits of lifelong learning. One report from the American Association of Colleges and Universities stated that this type of “education is the best and most powerful way to build students’ capacities to form reasoned judgments about complex issues.” Importantly, reasoned judgment is not only a critical competency women need in the workplace, but also a skill needed for effective contributions in politics, communities, churches, and homes. Research also shows that women in particular receive valuable development opportunities in the areas of verbal and writing skills, interpersonal and teamwork abilities, quantitative and analysis skills, critical thinking, reflective judgment, principled moral reasoning, integrating ideas and concepts, gaining content knowledge in various fields, and learning effectively on their own.

College graduates also have a considerable advantage in comparison to high school graduates when it comes to factual knowledge. College graduates are much more likely to engage in activities that add to their knowledge base after graduation. Students who continue their education select interests and activities—such as serious reading or continued education—that enhance learning. Incoming freshmen increased their functionality in core areas from the 50th to 60th percentile after only two years of college. Further estimates reveal that the net effects of college in mathematics, science, English, and social studies range from “about 60 percent to 75 percent of the simple freshman-to-senior difference.” Intellectual growth continues to develop at the same rate after college and appears to continue through adulthood. In the areas of mathematics, science, and reading comprehension, the evidence indicates an “intergenerational impact of parental exposure to postsecondary education on sons’ and daughters’ learning.”

Studies have reported that the ability to comprehend and adequately present both sides of an argument or controversial issue is significantly improved after attending college. Under controlled studies that consider age and verbal and mathematical ability, postsecondary educational exposure produces a positive effect on evaluating the strength or weakness of arguments with gains in one’s ability to use reason and evidence in making judgments about controversial issues. College seniors have a measurable improvement in the skills of reasoning and critical thinking. Compared to incoming freshmen, they are able to address sophisticated problems and provide solutions that encompass greater complexity.

Click here for full brief with references: The Value of Higher Education for Women in Utah

 


6. Societal and Economic Outcomes

The positive impact on society as education relates to economic stability cannot be underestimated. Societies that have higher levels of education are safer and have less poverty. For every year of increase in the average schooling level within a community, there is a 30 percent decrease in murder. According to the 2009 American Human Development Project, “Education is the single most important factor in the determination of a person’s poverty status: almost 24 percent of the adult population without a high school diploma is poor, compared to 11 percent of those who are at least high school graduates and only 3.6 percent of college graduates.” Education provides the avenue out of poverty and encourages individuals who are less prone to commit criminal behavior and more likely to participate in civic activities.

Over the last 25 years the economic benefits of higher education have been growing. The earning gap between college graduates and non-college graduates is expanding. Education also has an impact on earnings, occupational status, and career mobility. Adults with education have access to better job opportunities that include high-quality health insurance and pension plans. A College Board report explains that education lowers unemployment rates and provides income increases of over 60 percent for a four-year degree. In addition, occupational prestige is noted more often in positions where advanced education is required. Overall, adults with bachelor degrees can expect to make over a million dollars more in their lifetime career than adults with high school diplomas.

Women who have associate, bachelor, or graduate degrees specifically tend to get jobs with better benefits and earn average incomes as much as 81 percent higher than women who have no postsecondary education. Utah’s Workforce Services economist, Lecia Parks Langston, reports that Utah has the “largest gap between the share of men and women with college educations of any state.” The education gap between men and women in Utah correlates with women’s lower wages. Langston notes that Utah women “tend to cluster in lower-paying occupations.” Conversely, Utah men are ranked 24th in the country for wages, falling short of the national median by slightly less than $500. When both incomes are added together, Utah arrives at 15th in the nation with a single household annual income of $56,633.

A high school education is no longer adequate to obtain work with an income that can support a family in Utah and within the current competitive global economy. Around the world, educational attainment rates within many countries are beginning to surpass the achievements of the United States. Considering that the fastest-growing populations include minorities and those in poverty, progress must be made to improve the delivery of education in Utah and within the United States. The economic and societal impact is clear: to ensure a healthy society and provide the means to sustain a satisfying life that meets expectations and aspirations, education is crucial.

 

Education Level (25+ Years) Yearly Salary
Less than a high school diploma $23,348
High school graduates, no college $32,240
Some college or associate’s degree $37,804
Bachelor’s degree and higher $57,460

*U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, News Release, July 21, 2008, Earnings and Education in the Second Quarter of 2008.

Click here for full brief with references: The Value of Higher Education for Women in Utah