Student debt is continuing to rise; and graduates are finding it harder and harder to find jobs after graduation. The job market is flooded with graduates who have degrees that aren’t employable in their specific field. We’ve all heard stories about students who graduate with a Bachelor’s degree and end up working at hourly jobs to pay their student loans back.
But when a student attends college, is his final goal only about employment after graduation? Or should he be getting more from the experience? Are colleges recognizing this growing problem and doing something to remedy the situation?
What about the ROI?
With all the talk of college ROI (Return on Investment), companies like Payscale.com are doing research on the cost of a degree versus the future earning potential. In a recent article in the Economist, they had this to say:
College graduates aged 25 to 32 who are working full time earn about $17,500 more annually than their peers who have only a high school diploma, according to the Pew Research Centre, a think-tank. But not all degrees are equally useful. And given how much they cost—a residential four-year degree can set you back as much as $60,000 a year—many students end up worse off than if they had started working at 18.
It’s clear to see that the cost of the education needs to be considered before embarking on a degree. Essentially, a degree that you can’t use when you graduate is not going to create as much earning potential as one that is in demand. Many students are going back to college after their Bachelor’s degree to get a Master’s degree simply because it will put them at the head of the applicant pool.
Should college be more than a degree mill?
College used to be seen as higher education—a place where someone could go to learn and grow academically. In today’s world, because of the increasingly high cost of a college education, parents and students are forced to look at the bottom line first. Even colleges see students as a business investment instead of an opportunity to educate them and broaden their horizons. Even with tuition increases many colleges are floundering financially.
The bigger question is has everyone lost focus? Susan Adams, of Forbes, believes we should all take another look at the value of a college education, not solely based on the ROI:
It may be most important to keep in mind that Payscale.com doesn’t count the many valuable intangibles of a college education—the opportunity to enrich students’ intellectual and emotional lives, to deepen their understanding of history, English, art, foreign languages, mathematics and the sciences, to make connections with professors and other students that can last a lifetime, and to grow as informed, critical-minded members of society. It’s impossible to put a price on any of those benefits.
How can colleges incorporate ROI, education, and life experiences?
One group believes it’s possible. Colleges That Change Lives is “dedicated to the advancement and support of a student-centered college search process.” What does this mean? They work to educate families and students that the criteria used by most college-bound teens to choose a college does not acknowledge the importance of understanding the individual’s needs and how that student will fit into the college community.
This organization was founded based on a book by Loren Pope, Colleges That Change Lives. In it, Mr. Pope found colleges that he believed embodied the true purpose of a college education by changing the lives of the students who attended them. Many of the colleges were unknown and not considered prestigious by academia. But after examining these colleges, he found they all had several things in common:
- High acceptance rates
- The cost of the education versus the return on investment
- The quality of the education that is student centered and individually focused
- The life experiences students will receive there transforming their world view
- The ability each student will have after graduation to find employment and pursue a career that fulfills their passion
As you can see, college can be more than a degree producing a paycheck. When students and parents sit down to make that college list, consider looking beyond the Big 10, the Ivies, and other prestigious universities. College should be more than a name, or prestige; it should be a place where lives are transformed. If you look at college as a way to get a good job down the road you’re missing out on four years of life-changing experiences.