College graduates earn more than high school graduates. College graduates with actuarial-science degrees earn more than college graduates with culinary-arts degrees.
And we all know why: Higher education gives students valuable skills that translate into high-paying jobs. College-level skills that are more valuable (at the margin) command higher salaries, so acquiring science and math skills through related majors leads to more remunerative job prospects than other skill sets imparted from other majors.
This is what most of us in higher education like to believe: We increase worker productivity.
A number of implications flow from this education-as-skills view of higher education. The key to economic growth is to get more students in college and into the right majors. Public spending on education is a good investment of public funds.