In his 2013 State of the Union address, Leader Obama said colleges and universities must highlight “affordability and value. ” He or she called for these concepts to be the criteria against which institutions of higher learning are measured. One of the problems is the fact that much of the discussion that continues about college these days uses the particular terms interchangeably. While it is clear what affordability means in terms of college: are you able to afford to attend X university or even do you need to consider Y community college; and what type of aid do you need and are you eligible for? These are today’s basic affordability questions.
“Value”, on the other hand, is a little more amorphous — especially when it arises in conversations about liberal arts and other, less career directed types of education. If you look at college guide books, as well as suggestions from major news media outlets such as the New York Times , calculating the value of an education is a simple equation: future, post-graduation earnings less the cost of attending college. Elementary, right?
Indeed — but not so simple. You could certainly make a valid argument that a non career-oriented education — state an English Writing degree, such as the one yours truly has within a drawer somewhere — has its very own intrinsic value, as well as value to society as a whole. You could also run this through the wringer of a straight cost-benefit analysis, and it may come up wanting; but even such an economic debate fails to capture all the economic nuances involved in financing a college degree. A simple cost-benefit analysis does not look at how much the value of a certain degree or academic program is affected by demand for that particular degree. The demand for a particular type of degree is impacted significantly by the factors that give rise to the costs of getting the degree.
The affordable-valuable construct has fed another debate about college. Can be higher education ‘worth it’? This blog offers addressed this question on a handful of occasions, and from a few various perspectives. But maybe we’re barking in the wrong tree.
According to a report just released by Bellwether Education, it’s fashionable to question whether it’s really “worth it” for students who are at the margins both academically and financially to visit college. But , while the conversation continues at an abstract level about whether high school students should be focused on “college or even career, ” students are, one-by-one, all across the country, quietly making their very own decisions, and they are choosing college.
In Wise Shoppers: The end of the “College for All” debate? through J. B. Schramm, Chad Aldeman, Andrew Rotherham and Rachael Dark brown, the authors point out that, thirty years ago, half of all U. Ersus. high school graduates went to college (meaning any form of postsecondary education that leads to a degree or credential), and the other half went directly into the workforce. But today, seven out of ten high school graduates head to college, while only three enter the workforce.
Over time, as more students have got attended and completed higher education, experts have repeatedly predicted this would generate an over-abundance of college-educated workers. Under this theory, a extra of over-educated workers would find it difficult to find jobs and depress income for everybody else. But the exact opposing has happened. Even in the recent recession, employers have voted with their payrolls and are more likely to hire college-educated workers, offer them full-time work and benefits, and pay all of them more money than non-college- educated workers.
Beginning in the early eighties, college-educated workers experienced a spectacular increase in their demand, and the college wage premium rose from 40 percent in the 1970s to up to 70 percent by the mid-1990s, plus reached bit more than 80 percent in 2012.
The financial insurance that higher education bestows is not really some kind of magic shield against job loss or hardship. But , through economic upturns and downturns, including the recent Great Recession, a college education remains the best insurance policy towards shifting labor markets, unemployment, plus under-employment.
The authors argue we face two genuine challenges looming in the future: 1) Colleges must do a better job identifying those students who are not realizing their guarantee, a disproportionate number of whom are usually low-income; and 2) Schools, schools, nonprofits, and businesses need to do a more satisfactory job of educating students about their options on which college they should go to, which degrees they should pursue, and exactly how they should pay for it. These aren’t arguments against college writ large but rather for thinking differently about college and preparing students to be intelligent about selecting the right institutions, taking on the manageable debt burden, and finishing their degree.
The report concludes with an analysis of the risks of college as an economic mobility technique and a set of recommendations for K-12 universities, colleges and universities, state and federal policymakers, and company leaders.
It recommends supporting students to become smart, critical shoppers of higher education information rather than assuming that the college experience is unavoidable or interchangeable.