A study about why women in Utah aren’t continuing their education and the long term benefits they could miss.
Nurse, chef, teacher, mother, wife and friend are just some of the hats that women wear today. Findings from the Utah Women in Education Project suggest that adding a graduation cap to the list can bring women many benefits.
In spite of all the benefits of post-secondary education, in Utah a lower percentage of women are enrolled in post-secondary education than anywhere else in the nation. Because of this and other related evidence, UWEP, a state initiative headed by UVU, set out to unravel the reasons for this Utah trend. What the project found is that Utah women do not understand the benefits of higher education.
While many recognize the financial benefits of education in general, almost none recognize that higher education can benefit almost every area of their lives.
UWEP reports numerous benefits of higher education for women. For example, educated women tend to give birth to healthier babies, better prepare their children academically to succeed in school and provide their children with healthier lifestyles.
Related to their own wellbeing, educated women tend to live longer on average, exercise more, abuse alcohol less, smoke less, eat healthier, have better mental health, be less overweight and have higher overall happiness.
Educated women also tend to contribute more to their communities. They generally participate more in activities such as voting, donating blood, and serving as community leaders. Of course they also have a lower risk of unemployment.
Another way higher education benefits women is through helping them develop important skills. Educated women generally have better leadership skills, social and teamwork skills, and openness to diversity and understanding people of other races. These women also tend to develop better lifelong learning skills, writing skills, critical thinking skills and have better judgment. Another benefit women tend to receive is a sense of greater independence along with feelings of control over life in general.
Dr. Susan Madsen, a UVU professor and director of UWEP, states that one of the problems for Utah women is that “they do not see a life of integration.”
She means they do not recognize that they can pursue other goals like a family and an education at the same time. Madsen, who is both a mother and a highly educated woman, understands the benefits of both. “Life is about doing multiple things at once,” Madsen said. She notes that women can find ways to gain their education, even if it means taking just a few classes at a time, doing classes online, taking night or weekend classes or using other options that help students earn their degrees.
Madsen does caution against postponing education. She says that studies show that if someone does not start and finish higher education right away, the likelihood of going back to finish is very low. Further, the sooner a student earns a college degree, the sooner the individual and those around them can start reaping the countless benefits.
By SIERRA WILSON