In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Value of Higher Education for Students and Other Stakeholders

  • Introduction

Education Value of Higher Education for Students and Other Stakeholders
Victor M. H. Borden, Gretchen C. Holthaus
  • LAST REVIEWED: 29 November 2018
  • LAST MODIFIED: 29 November 2018
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756810-0209


The term “value” can be used as a noun, as in the title of this article, to signify the importance, worth, or usefulness, of something. Higher education has generally been viewed as something of value to a variety of individuals and groups. The benefits deemed to be of value in higher education include intellectual growth and maturity, innovation and technology development, labor market outcomes and workforce development, civic engagement, general health and welfare, social mobility, and several other quality of life issues. But “value” can also be used as a verb, meaning to estimate the monetary worth of something. Given the rising cost of higher education to the state and to the individuals who partake, monetary worth is a central focus of research and policy related to the benefits of higher education. There has been a long-standing debate pertaining to the extent to which higher education is a public versus a private good. While higher education may benefit society as a whole, there are also numerous personal benefits. A recent shift in perceptions among policymakers and the public has increased the focus on the private good benefits. Complicating this debate, there is a significant overlap between the public and private good benefits. For example, the differences in wages typically enjoyed by college graduates compared to those who do not have a higher education credential has grown significantly over the past fifty years (albeit with notable inequities associated with race, ethnicity, and gender). With increasing participation in higher education, the college premium (a private good) can contribute to improving income equality (a public good), although as noted in several of the articles included in this bibliography, that outcome is not guaranteed. This bibliography is organized into three major sections. The first and largest section focuses on the outcomes and benefits of higher education, which is organized into six subsections. We first review literature in two sections related to the perceived shift away from recognizing the public good and efforts to rediscover and measure those benefits. This is followed by four subsections related to outcome types. These are knowledge production, general and noneconomic outcomes, labor market and economic outcomes, and human capital theory and related econometric analyses. Additionally, the second major section, the impact of college on students, includes subsections devoted to comprehensive literature reviews, student development in college, the student experience, and student success. The third major section focuses on public policy, perceptions, and consumer information, with subsections on each of those three related topics. We include in several sections resources that are found outside traditional publication realms. References within these sections are further organized into three types: traditional publications (published in journals and books), other publications (reports produced by policy and research groups), and website resources.

The Outcomes and Benefits of Higher Education

This first and largest section of the bibliography focuses on research, scholarship, and policy initiatives that most directly relate to the value of higher education, including both private and public benefits gained by participating students, communities, and society.

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