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Dual Reports Show Perceptions, Benefits to Higher Education in Georgia

March 19, 2008

An overwhelming majority of residents in Georgia see higher education as vital to the state’s economic growth and quality of life, as more educational attainment is aligned with higher incomes, higher levels of entrepreneurship and less government spending. These conclusions are proclaimed in two reports – one poll-based and the other created from econometric data – by the Atlanta Regional Council for Higher Education (ARCHE) titled Georgians’ Perceptions of Higher Education and What Does Georgia Gain by Investing in Its Colleges and Universities? For example, 75 percent of Georgians believe higher education is “very important” for the state’s economic growth, compared to 21 percent stating it is “somewhat important” and 3 percent deeming it “not important”.
Like a stepladder, Georgians’ per capita income gradually increases with education attainment, ranging from $18,410 on average for those without a high school degree to $78,440 for those with a master’s degree or higher. An inverse effect can be seen for unemployment, as 8.5 percent of those without a high school degree are unemployed in the state, compared to 1.2 percent with a master’s or above. According to the report, educated residents provide the “heart of funding” for Georgia’s operations and programs. Whereas less than high school-educated households contribute $2,780 on average in state and local taxes, households with a master’s degree or higher pay $6,950 in taxes. Alternatively, 76 percent of state spending on direct public assistance in the state is allocated to Georgians with a high school diploma or less.
The data presented also show parents with more education have children with less disciplinary problems in school and achieve greater academic success themselves. Suspension and expulsion rates of the children of parents with less than a high school degree were 18.7 percent, gradually decreasing into the single digits if the parents had a bachelor’s or above. The SAT scores of children showed on average 200-point disparities between the offspring of highly educated parents and parents who did not graduate from high school.
The report also provides a glimpse into the backgrounds of those with entrepreneurial experience in Georgia. Whereas 1.5 percent of adults without a high school degree incorporated a business, those attaining a bachelor’s degree or at least a master’s degree did start a new business at 4.4 percent and 5.7 percent, respectively.
So what strategies should Georgia use to push education in a state where 146 of its 159 counties have bachelor’s degree attainment levels lower than the national percentage? According to the poll provided, 55 percent of Georgians believe a higher quality education is more important than providing statewide access to college. Comparatively, 34 percent of state residents believe providing access to all Georgians wanting four-year degrees is more important, even it means lowering the quality of education the state provides.
What Does Georgia Gain by Investing in Its Colleges and Universities? is available at:
Georgians’ Perceptions of Higher Education can be found through ARCHE at: