Colleges and universities started class a couple weeks ago. I am hopeful the nation will see a slight bump in enrollment following the deep COVID declines. Many students stayed home during COVID, while others took advantage of rising wages for high school graduates. These facts make it a good time to outline the benefits and costs of a college education. These benefits are both private and public.

The public benefits to education are straightforward. States and cities with a higher share of adults who’ve graduated college are more prosperous, grow faster and have less volatile recessions. These benefits extend to residents who’ve not been to college. Indeed, the best economic opportunities for people without a college degree are in cities with lots of college graduates. This is one reason the most or prosperous states spend the most on education, and vice versa.

Michael J. Hicks is the director of the Center for Business and Economic Research and the George and Frances Ball Distinguished Professor of Economics in the Miller College of Business at Ball State University. His column appears in Indiana newspapers.

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