In this edition of our “Ask the Experts” series, we examine the value of college and advanced degrees with experts in the fields of economics and education.
With outstanding student loan debt recently surging past the $1 trillion-mark and continuing to rise, questions abound about the future of our nation’s youth as well as the potential for economic fallout from this would-be ticket to a better life turned debilitating financial burden. Chief among them are hypotheses as to both the root causes of this impending crisis – aside from what’s obviously attributable to the recent economic malaise – and potential solutions to it.
It would be easy to simply chalk the current landscape up to a down economy and a stagnant job market, but that explanation would be both short-sighted and incomplete. There are numerous other dynamics in play here, from the affordability of higher education and the motives of private lenders to the financial literacy of high school seniors and the viability of certain majors.
The latter two, when viewed in concert, serve as the foundation for a very interesting notion: Could it be that the way young people choose an institution at which to learn and an area of study on which to focus is flawed? That, in turn, begs the question of whether or not you can actually quantify the value of a college degree, let alone that of a particular degree from a particular school as compared to others. In other words, can students strategically approach what is so often referred to an investment in their futures in order to maximize the returns?
For help in answering these pressing questions, we turned to a few people who’ve devoted years to not only providing higher education, but also gauging it’s ultimate worth. You can jump directly to each expert’s insights by clicking on their respective names below or skip to the Takeaways section in which we summarize their responses and offer a few forward-looking conclusions of our own.
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In the spirit of students pursuing higher education, here are the Cliff’s Notes for “Ask The Experts: Can Students Predict The Return on Their Investment in Higher Education?”
- While the struggling economy and barren job markets are obviously the main sources of fuel for the prodigious rise in student loan debt that we’re seeing, prospective students must also take it upon themselves to shop for college and advanced degrees like any other purchase or investment.
- Assigning a value to a college education is not guesswork. Most student simply eschew the legwork required to make a reasonable cost-benefit analysis.
- In order to evaluate the expected return on an investment in a particular degree from a particular institution, one must answer four main questions: 1) Will I graduate?; 2) How long will it take?; 3) What will the net cost be?; 4) What can I expect to earn after graduation?
- There is reason to be concerned that the combination of high-cost of education and stiff competition in many industries is killing intellectual diversity by forcing young people to study what they think will get them hired.
- Interestingly, two-year technical degrees currently offer great value given the lack of mid-level skilled workers in the job market.
- At the end of the day, college isn’t for everyone and wasting money only to drop out will leave you laden with debt without the degree necessary to boost your income and pay it off.