Education Leads to Higher Life Satisfaction

A few months back, I wrote a blog post titled “Is College Worth the Cost?” This past week, the Gallup organization, in conjunction with Purdue University, shed more light on the specific higher education decisions and experiences that lead to better life satisfaction. Their landmark study, called Great Jobs Great Lives, provides some surprising findings that I felt compelled to share with you this week.

Education benefits other than higher salaries:

Most studies regarding the value of a college education only measure things like employment and earnings. It is true that the unemployment rate is double for those without a degree. However, the Gallup-Purdue Index sought to measure the overall well-being of college-educated adults in such areas as Sense of Purpose, Sense of Community, Financial Stability, and Physical Health. Here are the key findings:

  1. The biggest impact on life satisfaction came from having at least one college professor or mentor who took an interest in the student as a person, encouraged him (or her), and made him excited about learning.
  2. The second biggest impact came from having a job or internship that enabled the student to apply what he was learning in the classroom. This type of experiential learning could also include intensive extracurricular activities or long-term projects.
  3. Graduates from larger public schools were slightly more engaged and happier than those from smaller (<10,000 students) private or “for profit” schools.
  4. Graduates with degrees in social sciences, arts, and humanities were likely to be slightly happier and more engaged in their work, but business and science majors had slightly more employment opportunities.
  5. The longer it takes to get your degree, the less likely it is that you will be positively engaged in your job. In other words, try to get that four-year degree in four years.
  6. Student debt was found negatively to affect all five areas of well-being among college graduates. There is a direct inverse correlation between the amount of student debt and overall well-being. Additionally, students who graduate with high levels of student debt are much less likely to try their hands at any type of entrepreneurial venture.

Are pricier schools better?

The good news is you do not need to go to the most expensive schools, since it does not appear that you get what you pay for when it comes to college education. The other piece of good news is that college grads are pretty happy overall. Nearly nine out of 10 say they are satisfied with their lives and on average rate their current lives 7.4 out of 10, with 10 being totally satisfied.