Higher Learning, Greater Good: The Private and Social Benefits of Higher Education

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JHU Press, 2009 - Business & Economics - 415 pages
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Winner, Best Book in Education, PROSE Awards, Professional and Scholarly Publishing Division, Association of American Publishers

A college education has long been acknowledged as essential for both personal success and economic growth. But the measurable value of its nonmonetary benefits has until now been poorly understood. In Higher Learning, Greater Good, leading education economist Walter W. McMahon carefully describes these benefits and suggests that higher education accrues significant social and private benefits.

McMahon's research uncovers a major skill deficit and college premium in the United States and other OECD countries due to technical change and globalization, which, according to a new preface to the 2017 edition, continues unabated. A college degree brings better job opportunities, higher earnings, and even improved health and longevity. Higher education also promotes democracy and sustainable growth and contributes to reduced crime and lower state welfare and prison costs. These social benefits are substantial in relation to the costs of a college education.

Offering a human capital perspective on these and other higher education policy issues, McMahon suggests that poor understanding of the value of nonmarket benefits leads to private underinvestment. He offers policy options that can enable state and federal governments to increase investment in higher education.

"An important contribution that not only provides a diagnosis of the main problems facing US higher education but also offers some solutions."— Times Higher Education Supplement

"A must-read for students interested in the economics of higher education and should be included as a required reading in such courses."— Journal of Higher Education

"This extraordinary book patiently, thoughtfully, and thoroughly provides the conceptual framework for understanding the higher education market, the empirical findings about what that market produces and the policy prescriptions needed to make it work better in the future."— Review of Higher Education

"No one else before McMahon has systematically and comprehensively presented the whole picture of higher education benefits and provided a valuation of the private and social non-market benefits."— Higher Education

"The overwhelming success of this work is that McMahon has articulated clearly and succinctly what students, their families, and governments are getting for their investment in higher education."— Journal of Education Finance

"The first book to systematically identify and develop the evidence necessary to measure comprehensively the benefits of higher education and to estimate their economic value."— Rorotoko

"This is a significant contribution to both theory and research findings in the study of investment in higher education... Highly recommended."— Choice

"A timely and insightful text... Academic advisors who want to show their students that a college degree offers benefits beyond starting salaries and career opportunities will find this book to be a valuable resource."— NACADA Journal

 

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Contents

1 What Is the Problem?
1
2 Challenges Facing Higher Education Policy
40
Jobs Earnings and the Skill Deficit
69
4 Private NonMarket Benefits of Higher Education and Market Failure
118
5 Social Benefits of Higher Education and Their Policy Implications
181
Social Benefits and Policy
256
7 New Higher Education Policies
286
8 New Strategies for Financing Higher Education
321
Appendixes
331
References
383
Index
405
Copyright

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About the author (2009)

Walter W. McMahon is Professor of Economics Emeritus and Professor of Education Emeritus at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He is well known internationally as a leading economist of education and is the author of Education and Development: Measuring the Social Benefits.

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