How Do You Place Value on a College Education?

By Nigel Assam

As the cost of attending college continues to rise, students and parents constantly ask the questions: What value am I getting out of such an investment of time and money? Is it worth it to incur such debt?

While some critics of higher education insist it is not worth it financially, and referencing successful entrepreneurs like Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg who both dropped out of Harvard, research still shows that a college education can increase one’s chances for future financial success.

Choosing the right college or university can be a very long and taxing process. So much of one’s time, energy and emotions are invested in the decision-making process. Like choosing a dentist, it is difficult to know whether you have made the right decision. Only after your first experience, will you know if you stay, or make a change.

The college experience is what some economists call the “experience good” – without prior experience, you can’t judge whether or not you have made the right decision. You cannot determine the value. Even after graduation, it is still impossible to judge your experience against another college or university (if you have never transferred).

Some of the factors that help determine the value of a college consist of campus preference/size, location (urban, rural; distance from home), and the right fit (what does this institution offer in terms of the applicant’s interests and goals?).

Instead of randomly applying to any college, or to the Harvards, Yales and Stanfords, it is helpful if the student narrows his or her choices based on his or hers goals – career interests, location and size.

There are some excellent resources for students to assist them in making the right decision. One such resource is College Measures, which offers data on two-year and four-year schools. Metrics such as student success, college efficiency and employment outcomes are measured. The Chronicle of Higher Education’s College Reality Check is an interactive tool that allows students to search for schools based on several criteria, such as location, price, graduation rates, etc.

Nigel Assam is a Baltimore based Marketing Specialist

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Jonathan Oleisky

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