For What it’s Worth: The Value of College
As Elizabeth mentioned, February is a month filled with opportunities for budding relationships (college acceptance letters) and heartbreak. (sigh…rejection letters).
In some cases, these same letters may force some soon-to-be graduating high schools seniors to revisit a question they once confidently answered months before penning rough draft personal statements. What’s more, the answer to this question may not arrive after one discussion.
The question is simple: “What’s the value of a college degree?” Using qualitative and quantitative analysis, Wall Street Journal columnist Sue Shellenbarger attempted to answer that question. Below you will find excerpts from her December 2009 article as well as some great BetterGrads-inspired commentary.
Finding work you love. College degrees can guide students’ career choices in subtler ways. Jason Wotman, 24, loves his work as a co-founder of Tailwaiters, a Great Neck, N.Y., startup that runs tailgate parties for clients at sporting events and concerts. “It’s mine, it’s my baby. Every step, every ounce of progress, feels good,” he says.
His degree in human and organizational development from Vanderbilt University helped launch him as an entrepreneur, he says. His courses in marketing, human-resource management and leadership equipped him well to size up opportunities and run a startup. “Taking it from an idea to an actual business, I felt like I had the tools,” he says.
BG comments: Jason’s story illustrates how college is an incubator for great ideas. On a similar note, coursework, research grants, and volunteer opportunities prepared our own Kevin Adler to run Bettergrads.
Preparing for a rich, well-rounded life: To Megan DeLamar Schroeder, Texarkana, Texas, planning the college experience based entirely on future income demeans its true value. “The intangible benefits … cannot be reduced to some kind of short-term cost benefit-analysis, as though one is purchasing a piece of property or an expensive sports car,” she says.
She borrowed $40,000 to earn an economics degree from Stanford University in the 1980s, which landed her only an entry-level job at a bank upon graduation. She spent 10 years paying off her student loans. But the experience was worth every penny, she says. The opportunity “to ‘marinate’ for four years in an amazing environment” served as a “springboard to lifelong learning and inquisitiveness,” she says. She will encourage her 10-year-old twin daughters to hew to similar values when they start their college search, she says.
BG comments: What’s the value of “experience” and “intangible benefits?” As Chris Anderson, author of Free: The Future of a Radical Price notes, “Tuition buys direct proximity to ask questions, share ideas, and solicit feedback from academics like [UC Berkeley Physics Professor Richard] Muller. It’s access to the network of other students and the idea exchange, help, and relationships this provides.” That sounds like value to me.
Click here to read the full article and feel free to share your thoughts below.