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The Advocate - EDITORIAL: Good Value In Any Field

Op-Ed

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While it's not much of a surprise, the vital importance of college education has been underlined by new Census Bureau reports.

Just look at the biggest U.S. metro areas, and there are two with more than 45 percent of adults holding at least a bachelor's degree. They are Washington, D.C, and the Silicon Valley area of California.

And while government employment is a major factor in generating jobs for the college-educated, there is also a substantial private-sector tech industry in the Washington area, as in northern California.

The value of those sheepskins?

Median monthly pay for a professional degree -- a doctor or lawyer, for example -- reached $11,927 in 2009. That was more than twice the monthly pay for someone with a bachelor's degree: $5,445. By contrast, a high school diploma was worth $3,179 a month, and an elementary school education yielded $2,136 a month.

There is also more security in having a college education. College-educated people were less likely to lose their jobs during the economic downturn, the Census Bureau reports showed. Unemployment peaked at 17.9 percent in early 2010 for those without a high school diploma; for those with bachelor's degrees, the highest unemployment rate was 5.9 percent.

This underlines the need for more investment in college, whether from taxpayers in general or parents paying tuition. It's a shrewd investment in the future, and the prosperity of the two areas with the highest populations of the college-educated ought to be indicators of where we want Louisiana to be in the future.

Our state, as U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu commented at the Press Club of Baton Rouge, needs to have more students making it through high school and into some sort of education after high school.

Four of five jobs in the United States require education past high school, but Landrieu, D-La., also pointed out that we're losing too many students to the status of dropout instead of college student.

Of black students, only 7 out of 100 now entering school will achieve a college degree, Landrieu said, with data showing somewhat better outcomes for white and Hispanic students.

That is underutilizing the God-given talents of significant segments of our state's population. The state overall is at about half the college attainment of the highest-educated metropolitan areas.

If we want to achieve economic and social progress, the value of education has to be reiterated, as Landrieu did, by leaders across the state. And we should be willing to put money where our goals are, because those sheepskins are worth a great deal more than the parchment they're written on.


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