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Follow-up to College Costs: Today’s lead article in USA Today

15Nov 2006

As I said in today’s earlier blog, the issue of college costs will continue to be a point of discussion. And so the evidence comes. The lead cover story for today’s (11/14/2006) USA Today addresses the need to have measurable indicators of the benefits of a college education – and the reaction to this from the educational establishment. The issue is that of trying to evaluate the comparative value of different college’s education in comparison to their costs.

U.S. Education Secretary Margaret Spellings wants students and parents to be able to compare the value of a college education and used the analogy of gathering data when shopping for a car. However, one university president bristled, stating that the value of college can’t be quantified – it is more like choosing a spouse.

Nonetheless, some interesting data is presented in the article.

*For every 100 ninth-graders in school:

-68 graduate from high school on time-40 of these graduates enter college immediately-27 of these students are still enrolled in their sophomore year

-18 will graduate from college within SIX YEARS.

(Note that less than 50% of the students who begin college right after high school graduate within six years.)

There is then much data thrown around regarding:

-annual earnings of high school graduates versus college graduates-what most college grads can’t do upon graduation (for example, read and understand credit card offers sent to them)-the changes in today’s college student (39% of students attending a four year college are over the age of 25; nearly 40% of students are attending part-time)

-the less-than-flattering results when colleges attempt to assess what their students have learned from freshman year to senior year in the areas of critical thinking, analytic reasoning and written communication.

For me, the “take away’s” are the following:

  1. Let the buyer beware. You may not get what you think you are paying for.
  2. Don’t base your financial decisions on the assumption that your student will complete college in four years. This is the exception rather than the rule.
  3. We need to broaden our thinking about career development. The equation: “College degree = Professional career” is far from an automatic result today.

I continue to argue that the best career preparation young adults can be doing today involves working (anywhere possible), talking to professionals in areas you are interested, do volunteer work or internships in career areas you are considering. These steps will help sharpen your focus and decision-making for career direction far more than taking an introductory survey course in your field.

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