A college degree is a product. Students pay a fee in the form of tuition and they receive an education. That education is a ticket to a better life in the form of higher earnings, or at least it always has been. College professors and administrators have bristled when I opine that their “product” should be viewed in terms of future earning potential. They would rather focus on the intrinsic value of education. Unfortunately the ever-increasing cost of their product forces us to look beyond the intrinsic and seriously consider extrinsic value. Only with this information in hand can a student and his/her family make a wise choice about where to go to school, how much to pay for the degree, and what the future prospects will be for the graduate.
Some very disturbing statistics that I recently learned when I attended a community conversation bring into specific relief the need for a deeper consideration of the value of a college education:
- In Oregon alone students borrow between $1.3 and $1.5 billion dollars in student loans each year.
- Student loans amount to $1.2 Trillion in the United States.
- Each year students in our country will take out $100 Billion in new student debt.
- The state of Oregon provides only 11% of state college and university expenses the rest must be made up with tuition.
These numbers are staggering. It disturbs me to think what this level of debt means to the future of our country. I, therefore, ask: What is the value of a college degree in terms of life earnings? This is simplistic of me, however. One needs to understand other elements to even begin to fully answer the question.
The Payscale organization has developed a chart called College ROI that may help. Here is a link to the chart: http://www.payscale.com/college-roi/. Before signing onto a lifetime of debt students should at least consider some of the statistics. The chart provides some choice details such as graduation rates, the “ticket price” with and without financial aid, and how much debt the average student has when s/he leaves school. These and other considerations are important when trying to determine the value of an education from a particular college.
Students need to be well armed before entering the battlefield of college. They need many arrows in their quiver and understanding the value of their education is an important one.