Is College a Worthwhile Investment?
A recent Pew Research Center survey reflects a growing public discontent with the cost and value of higher education in the United States.
According to the telephone survey, 75% of Americans surveyed say college is too expensive to afford, while 57% surveyed believe that “higher education in the U.S. fails to provide a good value.” Almost half of all college graduates say student loan payments made it difficult to “pay other bills”, and 48% of those without a college degree said “they could not afford to go to college.”
However, the same survey shows that 94% of parents “expect their child to attend college.” In addition, most adults “believe that they are earning $20,000 more a year as a result of” getting a college education. Interestingly enough, 86% of graduates believe college to be a good personal investment.
The survey, released this past May, delivers statistics essential to a growing debate about the value of a college education.
Student Debt Increases
The Project on Student Debt reports that college costs are rising at three times the rate of inflation. The report adds that the average debt accrued by a college graduate was at $23,200 in 2008. According to Education Trust, a non-profit research organization out of Washington, D.C., the cost of attendance covered by the Federal Pell Grant dropped from 77% in 1980 to 36% in 2007.
Does College Prepare You for a Career?
The Pew Research Center survey shows that almost three-quarters of four-year college graduates said college “helped them grow intellectually”, while just over half said college “prepared them for a career.” This battle over the mission of higher education is demonstrated in the following statistic: 47% of the general public believes the purpose of higher education is to “teach work-related skills and knowledge” as opposed to 39% who believe it is for personal and intellectual development.
The Great Debate
Opponents of college education have begun making headlines, including one who caused a national stir by offering 20 current college students $100,000 to quit school and start a business. Yet, a recent report from Georgetown University’s Center on Education shows that today’s college graduate are earning 84% more in their lifetimes than those without a college degree.
Lumina Foundation Head Jamie Merisotis said the report “explodes once again the myth that somehow a college education is worth less than it used to be.