Archive for February, 2013

What is College For?

Wednesday, February 20th, 2013

As we enter the second semester of the academic year, millions of high school students are anxiously awaiting college acceptance letters. Some have heard already from those colleges. The students who applied in a college’s ED, EA or rolling admissions program. But the most competitive colleges will not make their final decisions until late March for the RA pool of applications.

Other than those students who were accepted in December in an ED program, all other students will have until May 1 to make their final decisions. Before that deadline it is the colleges that will be nervous. That is, who will say “Yes, I am accepting your acceptance” back to them! In the college ratings game made popular by US News & Reports, the higher the yield the higher the ranking.

Yes, it is an exciting time. But let’s step back a minute and consider this. What is college for anyway? Is it REALLY worth the expense? Colleges will tell you it is an investment. But in financial jargon an “investment” is made in anticipation of an outcome greater than the time or money put into it.  Is that what the outcome is in the majority of cases?

In May of 2011, the Pew Research Center released surveys that indicate that 57% of Americans feel that universities in the US fail to provide good value for the money spent. College has always been expensive but in the last 21 years I have seen an escalation of costs that are way out of proportion with income, with one significant exception. Parents view college price tags with a wary eye, as they should. According to the survey only 35% of the American adult public said colleges were doing a “good” job in terms of providing value to students; 42% said “only fair” and 15% said “poor”.  In the same survey, however, 84% of recent college graduates said college had been a good investment; only 7% said it had not been.

Why the disparity in belief? Is that because young people don’t want to admit the four years plus they spent in college was money (more often a parent’s money) not well spent?  What I sense some of them saying is that the benefits they received are intangible, immeasurable and not connected to what a particular degree ‘got’ them.

Hopefully, as teenagers mature through their twenties they develop a fair amount of critical thinking and social networking skills. They will benefit greatly from learning as much, if not more, outside the classroom as in it. That is why I put a great deal of emphasis on understanding the nature and depth of academic and career advising at each college they are considering. The student who is pro-active in pursuing internships as an undergraduate often has an advantage amongst his peers following graduation.

Call us at Programs for Education for a complimentary ‘get acquainted’ conversation. Learn how you and your children can get the best return on investment from their college experience.