Big Benefits of More Education for Everyone

The following column originally appeared in a number of APG of East Central Minnesota newspapers during February, 2024.


Big benefits of more education for everyone

Here’s a note to every Minnesotan 15 and older: Two new studies show you’ll live a longer, healthier life and make more money if you continue your education.

As Minnesota high school students register for next year’s classes, and as adults think about their own lives, I hope people consider this.

Over the next month, high school students will decide what to take in the 2024-25 school year. Readers of this column know I’m a huge fan of students earning free college credit while in high school. Minnesota has more ways to do this than any other state. Students can take free classes taught by high school faculty (AP, IB and College in the Schools). They can take courses taught by college and university faculty, either in their high school, using the school’s computers, or on a college campus (Postsecondary Enrollment Options). Students can and are saving themselves thousands of dollars.

While state law requires that public schools provide detailed, factual information about PSEO, a 2023 report found the majority of districts were not providing all the required information. In some cases, districts were giving inaccurate information. That report is found here.


But the Minnesota Department of Education does provide factual information about all of these programs. It’s available here.

Readers of this column also know I’ve been writing about a new Minnesota program going into effect this fall: The North Star Promise Scholarship Program offers free tuition at Minnesota Public Colleges and Universities to Minnesotans whose family earns less than $80,000 a year (there are a few other criteria, too). There are NO age restrictions – to the delight of many. Additional information here.

Now we have even more reasons for people to use these opportunities.

An international group of researchers reviewed more than 600 studies from 59 countries. Their conclusion: More education produces a healthier, longer life. For every year of schooling, the chance of death fell by 3%, through the age of 50. But mortality rates also were lower for people with more education through the age of 70. Lower levels of education appeared to have a comparatively negative impact on the average adult’s life as consuming five alcoholic drinks a day or smoking half a pack of cigarettes a day. This research is found here.

A second study from Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce focused on the income gains from more education. Researchers found progress – more people in Minnesota and the U.S. are earning two- and four-year degrees now than 10 years ago. For example, the number of postsecondary degrees, two-year and higher, awarded in Minnesota between 2010 and 2020 increased by 7.3%. This will result in a gain of $222 billion in lifetime earnings. Minnesota data is here

Researchers also stressed the value of closing attainment gaps among people of different races. This would make a huge difference in lifetime earnings. National data is here.

We live in challenging times. But Minnesotans also have incredible opportunities to live healthier, happier and more financially rewarding lives, via two- and four-year college access programs. I hope readers recognize and respond to these possibilities.

Joe Nathan, Ph.D., is co-director of the Center for School Change. He formerly was a Minnesota public school teacher, administrator, and PTA president. Reactions welcome: