Why What We Do is Important

David Harpool, JD, PhD
President, NCU

I have the privilege to lead Northcentral University, an accredited, nonprofit institution of higher education, serving primarily graduate students through a robust online learning platform.

Of our 11,500 students, 60% are female and at least 55% are from minority, traditionally underserved populations. One hundred percent of our faculty have doctoral degrees and teach using our “Teaching Through Engagement” pedagogy. Our learning platform, NCUOne, operates using the best practices of a robust learning management classroom.

Why does any of this matter? The answer is because a college degree is still the single best investment a family can make in improving their socio-economic status. While there have been media reports, largely based on opinion and innuendo, suggesting a college degree is not as valuable as it used to be, there is very little evidence to support that claim. 

Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics continues to suggest that earning a college degree significantly increases the lifetime income of a graduate as compared to a non-graduate. In fact, in 2019 those who earned doctoral or professional degrees made three times as much as those with a high school diploma. Degree earners are also less likely to be unemployed.

According to a Pew Research Center report, college graduates are more likely to find careers in which they report satisfaction. Degree holders are more likely to be homeowners, according to an analysis conducted by the real estate website Trulia. Other studies suggest college graduates typically have healthier lifestyles, self-report that they are happier as compared with non-degree-earners, and are more likely to participate in voting and self-governance.

This is not to say there is something wrong with non-degree earners. I was fortunate enough to be a first-generation college student because of the sacrifices my parents made, neither of whom could attend college. Earning a college degree is still a relatively rare accomplishment. Approximately 35% of United States citizens have earned a bachelor’s degree, 12% have earned a master’s degree, and 2.5% have earned a doctorate or professional terminal degree, per the U.S. Census Bureau.

At Northcentral University we talk a lot about education as a means for “improving the human condition.” It is good to remind ourselves that we and our colleagues in trade, career, community, and traditional colleges and universities are indeed making a positive difference.