We cannot verify your location
Browse Book and Journal Content on Project MUSE

Higher Learning, Greater Good

The Private and Social Benefits of Higher Education

Walter W. McMahon

Publication Year: 2009

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. Walter W. McMahon, a leading education economist, carefully describes these benefits and suggests that higher education accrues significant social and private benefits. McMahon's research uncovers a major skill deficit in the United States and other OECD countries owing to technical change and globalization. Yet a college degree brings better job opportunities, higher earnings, and even improved health. 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.

Published by: The Johns Hopkins University Press


pdf iconDownload PDF (60.1 KB)
pp. vii

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (63.3 KB)
pp. ix-xiii

This book sets forth a modern human capital approach to higher education policy in the United States but also in other developed OECD member countries. It emphasizes the nature, measurement, and valuation of the private and social benefits of higher education—with special attention to the non-market private and social benefits, direct and indirect effects, and short- and long-term...

read more

1 What Is the Problem?

pdf iconDownload PDF (128.2 KB)
pp. 1-39

The degree of privatization of higher education has been in - creasing since 1980, and even more sharply from 2001 through the present. As public funding of higher education per full-time student has declined, tuition has risen 29% in real terms net of increases in financial aid since 1996 at public institutions according to the College Board (2007a). For public an...

read more

2 Challenges Facing Higher Education Policy

pdf iconDownload PDF (122.7 KB)
pp. 40-68

This chapter begins with a review of basic human capital concepts vital to higher education policy. It then considers the standard current higher education policy issues from a human capital perspective and the implications. It introduces some tools and draws on empirical evidence, but it does not develop the analysis in depth or present the detail to be found in later...

read more

3 Higher Education and Economic Growth: Jobs, Earnings, and the Skill Deficit

pdf iconDownload PDF (190.9 KB)
pp. 69-117

The key question for this chapter is, Does higher education contribute significantly to jobs and to economic growth? And if so, what is the evidence? What are the powerful underlying economic trends to which higher education policy must respond, and how much does higher education contribute in relation to its rising...

read more

4 Private Non-Market Benefits of Higher Education and Market Failure

pdf iconDownload PDF (223.5 KB)
pp. 118-180

Higher education has become so expensive to students, their families, and governments that it has become essential to articulate what they are getting for their investment. An important part of these benefits are private non-market benefits that positively affect each graduate’s quality of life in ways other than just income. These are...

read more

5 Social Benefits of Higher Education and Their Policy Implications

pdf iconDownload PDF (247.1 KB)
pp. 181-255

Social benefits of higher education emphasize the benefits of higher education to the society that are externalities, that is, benefits that spill over to others, including future generations, that are beyond the private benefits of higher education to the individual. Social benefits are usually defined as the total benefits of higher...

read more

6 University Research: Social Benefits and Policy

pdf iconDownload PDF (124.9 KB)
pp. 256-285

“Those who look mainly to universities as a source of human capital often tend to be critical of the lack of obvious dividends from university research” (Sims, 1989). This statement highlights the often underestimated but extremely important benefit that universities provide to research by the creation, dissemination, and adaptation...

read more

7 New Higher Education Policies

pdf iconDownload PDF (121.5 KB)
pp. 286-320

Familiar higher education policy issues involve access, affordability, accountability, and the trend toward privatization. Dramatically changed conditions in the economy with enormous skill deficits due to globalization, a human capital perspective that has established the critical role of education in the knowledge economy, new research...

read more

8 New Strategies for Financing Higher Education

pdf iconDownload PDF (56.7 KB)
pp. 321-330

A modern human capital approach to higher education policy reveals a number of higher education policy gaps. But it also offers criteria suggestive of solutions that were considered in Chapters 3–7. These both permit some overall conclusions relevant to a new financing strategy to be...


pdf iconDownload PDF (186.2 KB)
pp. 331-381


pdf iconDownload PDF (128.1 KB)
pp. 383-403


pdf iconDownload PDF (756.7 KB)
pp. 405-415

E-ISBN-13: 9780801896781
E-ISBN-10: 0801896789
Print-ISBN-13: 9780801890536
Print-ISBN-10: 0801890535

Page Count: 432
Illustrations: 18 line drawings
Publication Year: 2009