search Quick Email Signup EPI US Canada



New Report Suggests Nation Better Served by Targeting Underrepresented Students for Higher Education

WASHINGTON, DC, May 26, 2005. A new report released today by the Educational Policy Institute suggests that higher education can best serve the nation by targeting low-income and other historically-underrepresented groups. “Given the finite resources at the federal, state, and institutional levels for postsecondary education in the U.S., the most prudent use of these funds is on those individuals who hold the greatest promise for growth,” says EPI President and report co-author Watson Scott Swail.


The report, funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, looks at the economic and non-economic impacts of higher education on individuals and society as a whole. According to the report, college graduates receive higher wages, are more likely to be employed, and when unemployed, likely to find new jobs faster. As well, graduates receive social returns to education, including increased life expectancy and better general health, improved quality of life for self and offspring and increased social status.


The report also sheds light on the societal, or public, returns to higher levels of education for its citizens. Educated citizens pay more taxes, buy more goods and services, are more productive, and require less government support through social service programs like Medicaid and TANF than lower-educated citizens. Non-economic returns to society include lower rates of incarceration, higher rates of volunteerism, and higher voter participation rates.


However, the report also acknowledges that the highly-touted impact of higher education on economic growth and global competitiveness is largely unproven in the field of economics. “Governors and other legislators are quick to suggest that education is the stimulus to economic growth and prosperity,” says Swail. “Unfortunately, while we believe those things to be true in many ways, there is little empirical evidence to support that claim.” Swail suggests that this should not be construed as an indictment of higher education, but rather, a call for a more-clearly articulated research agenda to prove the net worth of investing in our postsecondary students and institutions.


The report’s coauthor, Adriane Williams, suggests if policymakers fail to buy the economic argument of targeting postsecondary expansion to those who don’t have such access, perhaps they’ll subscribe to the American notion of the ‘doing the right thing.’ “Our society is built on the belief that everyone has a chance to better themselves and their families,” says Ms. Williams. “Policymakers have an opportunity to provide hope and opportunity to all by expanding carefully-targeting public programs and services to those who can really use them.”


The report concludes that, in addition to expanding access to low-income students, the ultimate gates to higher education are opened by ensuring that the K-12 system adequately prepares students for the world of work.


“Is More Better” is available for free download by clicking here.


CONTACT: Dr. Watson Scott Swail, 540.288.2322 (v).