Within the next month local high schools and colleges throughout the state will have graduation ceremonies.

It is a worthy goal for those high school grads to follow in the footsteps of the college students by earning a higher-education degree.

There are many continuing education options for high school graduates.

Two are right here in Jefferson County with Hanover College and Ivy Tech Community College. Others may look elsewhere, from Valparaiso University in northern Indiana to the University of Southern Indiana - with many more excellent schools in between.

Others might choose to study out of state. Some may enter an apprenticeship program at a local trade union, learn mechanics at a tech school, or study through service in the military.

As a community, though, we should encourage the 17-, 18- and 19-year-olds to continue formal learning. It helps us as much as it helps them.

How does advanced education earned by the teenager down the street help his neighbor?

The national unemployment rate dropped to a four-year low of 7.5 percent last month, and the U.S. economy added a better-than-expected 165,000 jobs in April, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Friday.

Joblessness hits people of different skill levels at varying rates, though. A study released by Ball State University's Center for Business and Economic Research - "Labor Markets After the Great Recession: Unemployment Policy for Indiana - revealed a wide span between Hoosiers, according to their education levels and 2011 data. People without a high school diploma had a 14.1 unemployment rate. Percentages steadily dropped as learning increased, 9.4 for high school grads, 8.7 for folks with some college, 6.8 for those with associate degrees, 4.9 percent for a bachelor's, 3.9 for a master's, and 2.5 for a doctorate.

Certainly, there are obstacles to be overcome. One of the largest is the rising cost of tuition. With the average debt in student loans topping $20,326, students and their families have begun to wonder if the degree is worth the years of payoffs. Those questions have become more intense and relevant, considering the average debt load was $10,649 in 2003, according to the Washington Post.

Education remains worth the cost, even as we more stridently call for Indiana lawmakers and university officials to double their efforts to control the inflationary spiral. Communities and states spend fewer resources on unemployment compensation, food stamp assistance, crime prevention, mental health issues and assistance for children of broken homes when education levels increase.