Monday, December 01, 2008

Paying more for an education than it is worth

A couple days ago millions of people in the United States when shopping on Black Friday. It is a time when many retailers offer great deals. People like good deals. Especially in this uncertain economic time, when it seems like we might be on the edge of greater financial stress.

The flip side of this is people don't like to be taken for a sucker. They don't want to over pay. People can get very angry when they realize they may have paid too much for a car or a computer. A few extra bucks is an annoyance. A few thousand more can rankle for years.

Marty Nemko claims to have found America's Most Overrated Product: the Bachelor's Degree. It is worth reading the whole column. I'll quote the start, just to get you hooked:

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Among my saddest moments as a career counselor is when I hear a story like this: "I wasn't a good student in high school, but I wanted to prove that I can get a college diploma. I'd be the first one in my family to do it. But it's been five years and $80,000, and I still have 45 credits to go."
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

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Marty's point is that when the price of education climbs too high, we are being taking for suckers. His column is well worth reading.

(Hat tip: Instapundit)


We have blogged in the past about the problem of rising cost. The key point is that the cost of higher education has been climbing twice as fast as inflation, for decades. I expect that we'll hit a tipping point when tens of thousands, and eventually hundreds of thousands will stop going to expensive schools. I just wish I could figure out what the students will then do for their education. Long live the revolution.


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Technorati tags: homeschooling, homeschool, home school, home education, parenting, children, public school, public education, education

2 comments:

Angela said...

I work for the scholarship office of my university, and this year (for the first time) we awarded what we call the progression scholarship. Students qualify for it by being on track to graduate in 4 years; i.e. by completing 25% of their degree program every year, summer semester included if you want to work a little harder to get those credit hours. You also only need a 2.0 GPA to qualify. So, any barely full-time, C-average student can get this scholarship. How many freshmen qualified?

30%. Now, students who work hard and 'catch up' with their degree program can qualify next year, but how many students who are already slacking off are going to do that?

I agree with Mr. Nemko, but sometimes the problem is kids are only at college because someone told them to be, not because they have any interest in education.

Phil said...

Angela's right. Too many kids go to college with no goal in mind, other than to get away from their parents. Some make discoveries about themselves and what they want to do with their lives, but most do not.

I tell my young kids all the time, "You should only go to college if there's something you want to be." Examples: doctor, accountant, architect, vet, engineer, journalist, etc. There are so many careers you'll never have a shot at if you don't go to college.

I graduated from the University of Idaho, which is always being listed in those "Best College Deals" magazines and books. If a kid knows what they want to do, such as electrical engineering, there's little reason to attend an expensive, private college when a cheap, public one will give them the same education and most of the same job opportunities. Idaho EE grads always score very high on the national tests, and they have 100% job placement. Anyway, just an example.

I'm still a big believer in higher education, as long as a kid has a few ideas about what they want to do. Taking eight years to graduate is just ridiculous.