01/01/2014 08:08 pm ET Updated Mar 03, 2014

Benefits of College Degree Include Being a Good Role Model

Recently, first lady Michelle Obama began visiting schools around the country, touting the benefits of a college degree and sharing her personal journey to earn a diploma. We applaud her efforts to serve as a role model, which will undoubtedly inspire others to follow in her footsteps.

Perhaps not surprisingly, earning a college degree makes role models out of many Americans. We recently conducted a national survey of 1,000 women, and nearly 90 percent of respondents said having a college degree is important to being a good role model. The survey also showed that 97 percent of women ranked personal achievement as the strongest motivator for pursuing continuing education.

With the U.S. currently ranking 12th in the attainment of a college degree among 34 countries for individuals age 25-34, we can start to imagine the trickle-down effect this will have on future generations.

With advancements in technology for online students -- especially adaptive learning tools that help learners tackle difficult material by breaking it down into smaller, cognitive skills -- there has never been a better time for working adults to get in the game. Not all college students are teen-agers, or in their 20s. In fact, at West, the majority of students in higher education are "nontraditional," and returning to school while working or raising families.

Those of us in higher education need to continue to innovate and provide options for all students -- especially those working to be role models to the people in their lives. Everyone who wants to earn a degree should have the opportunity to reach their educational goals and forge their own path for others to emulate.

Let's make a commitment to follow in the footsteps of the First Lady to help others achieve their potential now and into the future. So that they, like Mrs. Obama, can serve as a role model for generations to come.

Tracy Lorenz is President of Western International University (West). West has been innovating in adult higher education since 1978, and provides an online education model that prepares working professionals with the information they need to remain competitive in the workforce. For more information, visit