What’s the Value of College?

Here’s another story questioning whether college is a good investment. This certainly is shaping up to be the summer (spring, actually) of discontent with higher education. NPR’s Scott Simon interviewed an education professor from UCLA during last week’s Weekend Edition. Essentially, the professor says there is more to higher education than simply the economic argument. Going to college is about more than simply boosting your earning power. Intellectual development is an important individual and societal benefit. However, the posted summary of the interview misses some key points. At the very beginning of the discussion, the professor notes that so much attention is on the price tag at exclusive, expensive schools. Students, he says, can find enriching experiences at more reasonably priced, lesser-known (often public) universities. At around the 4:18 mark, he notes that a traditional four-year bachelor’s degree isn’t right for everyone. Finally, we’re starting to see some progress in the “just go”/”don’t go” debate:

  • College was never designed to educate everyone.
  • Some sort of postsecondary education is critical to survive today’s rapidly changing job market — and a commitment to lifelong learning and retraining will be important for keeping pace.
  • A key way to improve the payback on the education investment is to minimize cost.
  • Intellectual development is a benefit, although a good bit of the personal development colleges claim occurs naturally as 18-year-olds become 22-year-olds.  
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