We are pleased to release Degrees of Value today. This paper aims to provide information on one important aspect of college—the return on investment. While there is certainly more to a college education than the financial payoff, the fact remains that this is an increasingly dominant concern for students. More tahn 80 percent of students now cite “to be able to get a better job” as a very important reason for attending college.
We explore this important issue by examining the economics behind college returns in light of recent changes in student attitudes:
“College graduates earn more and are less likely to be unemployed than those with only high school diplomas. But with the onset of the Great Recession in 2008, the perimeters of the value debate in higher education began to shift. College prices continued to climb even as average household wealth declined… leading prospective students and their families to increasingly ask the value question: What will we get in return for our investment in college, especially if we are taking on significant debt? Often it’s not that students and families are questioning the value of college per se, just the value of attending certain colleges.”
We also review new consumer-friendly tools such as the U.S. Department of Education’s College Scorecard, College Measures, and College Reality Check, each of which provides evidence that students are right to become more discerning. Where you go to college and what you do while there can have a dramatic impact on a student’s return on investment.
Yet these are, at best, partial solutions—students and parents need a system that measures college outputs much more comprehensively in order to be able to make truly informed decisions.