Higher education is a public good

This article from the Chronicle of Higher Education by Phillip Trostel offers a good argument to support claim that university is a public good.  As he correctly points out, while post-graduation earnings are among the greatest benefits of a university education.  Most college graduates will have more lifetime earnings than individuals without college degrees.  The exclusive focus on earnings, however, tends to support the argument that college is a private good, i.e., earning a college degree is beneficial only for the individual who earns the degree.  If a university education is an exclusively private good, then states and the federal government would have little incentive to invest in higher education.  As Professor Trostel points out, in addition to earning more money — which means college graduates pay more taxes (a public good) — college graduates require less public assistance in the form of Medicare and unemployment benefits, give more to charity, volunteer more often, and have higher levels of civic engagement.  The article provides more detailed evidence for each of these public benefits of higher education.  The belief that higher education is an exclusively private good may seem innocuous on the surface, but it serves to justify reductions of public support of higher education.

Beyond the College Earnings Premium. Way Beyond