There are many ways to answer this question. The first thing that pops in my head is another question: value to whom? Value to the student? To the community? To the economy? To our country? The obvious answer comes from the perspective of the student. From the student’s point of view, a college degree means a better job and life. In many communities, attending college is just as normal as attending high school. The social consequences of not attending college in this type of community can lead to the student as being labeled a failure, which creates a pressure for the student to attend the “best” school possible. From the community’s point of view, the value of having more residents with college degrees translates to more residents with higher incomes, which benefits the community in the form of more tax money and more financially stable homes and families. To the economy, more workers with college degrees and specialized skills generally leads to higher efficiency and production. Companies that hire employees with specialized skills generally like to hire in places where skilled employees are plentiful, which relates back to the value of higher education in communities.
Apart from the obvious economic and financial gains that individuals and communities make, the value of higher education can lead to personal fulfillment. As cliche as it sounds, this value cannot be measured. As Frank Bruni of the New York Times states, “It’s impossible to put a dollar value on a nimble, adaptable intellect”. Democracy, which Dewey called “more than a form of government; it is primarily a mode of associated living, of conjoint communicated experience”, would benefit from a population with nimble and adaptable intellects, especially if we look to tackle future challenges quickly, efficiently, and in ways that benefit everybody.