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For Their Future, Too: Creating a College-going Culture

Creating a legacy and leading by example may be concepts that some of us keep in the back of our minds, especially if we have children or grandchildren. Instinctively, we want their lives to be fuller, richer, maybe even easier. And trying to set a good example as parents is no easy feat — it can cause us to feel disappointment in ourselves if things don’t work out the way we planned.

But there is at least one area where our hard work, even our setbacks and how we handle them can leave a lasting, positive effect on our peers and on younger generations —pursuing higher education.

There are many benefits to being life-long learners, as successful people can attest. There are tangible rewards such as good salaries and benefits that help families stay healthy and happy. Adults who thrive can help create viable com-munities with options for the future and time for creativity and recreation. Important, too, are the less tangible rewards of interesting careers with a strong purpose—the work we do can actually make a difference in the world.

Scientific breakthroughs and sustainable businesses aside, there is a stronger, perhaps more fundamental benefit to taking on higher education: it can create a culture within the family of high expectations, perseverance and hope.

The US Department of Education regularly looks at data that tracks college students of all ages to discern how attitudes about college-going affect success in life. In fact, it recently launched a web site for young students in middle and high school at with the theme, “I’m Going!” to help ingrain the promise of college attendance and explain what it can mean for the future.

Schools and companies that work in education study trends to pre-pare for the academic needs of future generations. One you may have heard of is College Board, a not-for-profit membership organization that delivers college entrance tests such as the SAT. Among other products, the College Board develops Advanced Placement (AP) classes and exams in high schools that help students earn college credit early.

In a recent survey of literature looking at college culture in families, College Board-funded authors Baum, Ma and Payea found that promoting a college-going culture correlated with benefits far beyond academic achievement. The 2010 Education Pays document pointed to not only increased standard of living in college-educated families, but also benefits to physical health, including less smoking and lower obesity rates. Notably, the paper quantified increases in family volunteerism rates, higher voting rates and more time spent on educational activities with children. Job satisfaction was also a key finding.

One of the main conclusions of the paper states, “Perhaps even more important, increased earnings are by no means the only positive outcome of higher education. The
knowledge, fulfillment, self-awareness, and broadening of horizons associated with education transform the lives of students and of those with whom they live and work.”

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Debbie P.

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