A couple of folks wrote in response to my statement that tuition benefits for my children were a factor in my decision to remain employed at Greenback. They also spoke of choosing to work at a college or university because of benefits, but the benefit that each of them mentioned first was health insurance.
One was a single dad who said he could earn more in construction (at least, in most years). But with two small children, the health insurance his school offers makes that job a better deal for him.
The other was a woman whose husband is self-employed. She didn't say what line of work he's in but, as anyone currently or recently self-employed can tell you, it really doesn't matter. In most states, it's difficult to find affordable individual health insurance. In the remainder, it's impossible.
The two stories reminded me of folks I know in the Backboro area, many of whom make sure that one earner (two-earner families being much the rule) keeps a job with benefits, while the other focuses on generating as much cash income as possible. Many times, the benefits-earner takes a government job (municipality, county or state); the second most common situation is employment in a public school system (often as a teacher's aide or a bus driver). Oftentimes, health insurance premiums for the family eat up the major portion of that paycheck, but knowing that the benefit is available and paid for frees the other earner to take more risk, in search of more reward. On balance, it's an arrangement that works out for a lot of families.
Given what's going on with public sector employment, school systems, collective bargaining rights and the like, I'd expect college/university employment to become even more attractive in the future. But the reasons have little or nothing to do with the "higher calling" that is post-secondary education.