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The College of St. Scholastica

Making the world a better place starts with you. Whether you’re a vigilant environmentalist or a champion of social justice, your cause needs a solid foundation to be sustainable over time. Surprisingly, the first step to making a difference in the world around you may begin in the classroom.

We’re all familiar with the typical benefits of a college degree — intensive learning, improved job prospects and a wider network. College grads even report higher rates of happiness and live longer lives.

But do you know what a college degree can mean for your community?

Social work majors, for example, can have the opportunity to change their corners of the world case-by-case. And nursing students can expect to touch thousands of lives throughout their careers. But statistics show that it doesn’t even matter which degree you choose to pursue — college grads in all fields benefit their communities in various ways.

Take a look at the community benefits of a college degree that we’ve outlined below — you may find yourself inspired to become a lifelong agent of change!

4 community benefits of a college degree

1. Higher rates of civic engagement

The benefits of a college degree extend far beyond the classroom — in fact, they can lay a powerful foundation in civic engagement amongst graduates.

One study found that those who attended college were consistently more likely than their counterparts to take part in many civic exercises. These included attending town meetings or political rallies, working with others to solve issues in the community, signing petitions and contacting government officials.

We do better as a whole when each person is engaged, so it’s critical for communities to come together and strive for improvement.

2. Higher volunteer rates

Not only are college graduates more likely to create change in their communities, they are also more likely to contribute to causes that matter to them.

The correlation between education and volunteer rates shows that individuals with higher levels of education are more likely to volunteer. Thirty-eight percent of bachelor’s degree holders reported volunteering, compared to 26 percent of those with an associate degree or just partial college experience. This figure dropped to 15 percent for those with a high school diploma alone.

Dedicated volunteers are one of the most precious resources in a community. With 7.9 billion hours of volunteering served in 2014 alone, many important causes and organizations rely on dedicated service from their volunteer base.

3. Higher voter turnout

Participating in politics is a birthright of US citizens — but to the dismay of many, Americans often ignore the polls during elections. Initiatives such as “Rock the Vote” were created to encourage voting in younger populations that are less likely to participate.

But when voter demographics are broken down, Americans with college degrees consistently vote more than their peers across all age ranges. The health of the political system depends on voters to influence public policy and government. If you want to make the world a better place, voting is a good way to start.

4. Healthier communities

Just as college graduates have a greater tendency to promote causes in their communities, they also tend to promote healthy lifestyles.

Studies show that the habits of college graduates contribute to healthy communities in a few different ways. College graduates are significantly less likely to smoke than their counterparts. They are also more likely to maintain a regular exercise routine and a healthy weight. Additionally, they pass these healthy habits down to their children.

The importance of healthy habits like these cannot be understated. Smoking and obesity cost the US about $500 billion each year. But the community benefits of higher education go far beyond finances — communities are happier and more productive when they’re healthy.

Will you make a difference in your community?

A better world starts with you. Whether you’re bound for brilliance or meant to make a difference, the benefits of a college degree can amplify your impact on the world around you in a way that will benefit your whole community.

The great news is, you’re on the right path to making the world a better place by pursuing an education! While any degree will benefit your community, choosing a career path that specializes in helping others can amplify your impact. If you’re set on serving the people around you, check out these 5 inspiring jobs that can help you help others to explore your career options.