The Value of a Bachelor’s Degree

I have often question the value of a college degree.  While I have one (and do think I have benefited from the education), the soaring costs of four-year colleges raises questions related to the Return on Investment of making the choice to go to college.  A well-written essay, America’s Most Overrated Product: the Bachelor’s Degree provides some very interesting statistics.

I have a hard time telling such people the killer statistic: Among high-school students who graduated in the bottom 40 percent of their classes, and whose first institutions were four-year colleges, two-thirds had not earned diplomas eight and a half years later. That figure is from a study cited by Clifford Adelman, a former research analyst at the U.S. Department of Education and now a senior research associate at the Institute for Higher Education Policy. Yet four-year colleges admit and take money from hundreds of thousands of such students each year!

Even worse, most of those college dropouts leave the campus having learned little of value, and with a mountain of debt and devastated self-esteem from their unsuccessful struggles. Perhaps worst of all, even those who do manage to graduate too rarely end up in careers that require a college education. So it’s not surprising that when you hop into a cab or walk into a restaurant, you’re likely to meet workers who spent years and their family’s life savings on college, only to end up with a job they could have done as a high-school dropout.

Such students are not aberrations. Today, amazingly, a majority of the students whom colleges admit are grossly underprepared. Only 23 percent of the 1.3 million high-school graduates of 2007 who took the ACT examination were ready for college-level work in the core subjects of English, math, reading, and science.

The opinion also provides some excellent recommendations for trying to make colleges more accountable.  Clearly, universities make money (and increasing amounts of it) regardless of the quality of their “product”.  With some of these suggestions, it’s hopeful that we can make a more educated decision about four-year college education and it’s potential benefits and drawbacks.

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