The Cost of Higher Education

Is It Worth The Investment?

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The Cost of Higher Education
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The Cost of Higher Education

President Obama has made it part of his regular education speech that the best path to the middle-class is through a college education.

And the numbers bear it out. Getting a college degree brings higher earnings over a lifetime. Today, those with a bachelor’s degree earned 84% more money over a lifetime than those with a high school diploma.

And it doesn’t take a bachelor’s degree to obtain greater earnings. Even 1 year of college gives you a bigger payoff.  The more schooling you have, the bigger the gain.  So, what’s the problem? Seems like long-term, college is a great investment.  

But, there’s a growing feeling that college is too expensive and brings enormous debt that stays with you, sometimes for decades. Then, there’s the fact that even with the advantage of a college degree, a lousy job market means there’s no work out there once you leave school.

It all has some economists worried that a new bubble is about to burst, the education bubble.

This episode originally aired on September 20, 2012.



Excellent enjoyed the show.

Excellent enjoyed the show. Topic is near and dear. I work at a college.

I was glad to hear one of the guests comment on the costs associated with technologically outfitting a campus;because of this and some other factors I don't believe that comparisons costs in even the 1980's are accurate. Beyond technology in the traditional sense there are complex learning devices such as "Sim Man" that a health science students can learn skills in a real life manner by listening to simulated heart and lungs sounds, to scratch the surface. These learning tools were simply not available in the very recent past.

Another cost contributor to the escalating costs was discussed on your show, but often doesn't get enough attention. Students and to a certain extent their families are seeking a college "experience" not just an education. All of these things such as modernized facilities (fireplace in the student union at SCSU is one example) and programs and activities for recreation and leisure, that are in particular alcohol free alternatives.

Lastly, may I say I disagree with the caller Rebecca from Yale's classification of nurse practitioner profession as "public servant". As other caller pointed out about the idea of private education, working in the public sector as an NP is a "choice" there are many opportunities out there to work in the private sector, in which an individual can make a comfortable living.

Cost of college.

I am 48 yrs old and went back to college in 2009. I went to a community college knowing it would be less expensive and the time I could take my classes helped with my work schedule. I had financial aid that paid for some of my expenses the rest came out of pocket. Then I lost my job and made the switch to go to school full time to finish my degree. Because of my financial situation changing I received full financial aid and it also paid for my books. I worked hard and ended up getting on the honor society for a 4.0 GPA. That GPA got me a scholarship . I graduated from Manchester Community College this past May with an Assoc. Degree in general studies. I had three schools in mind to finish to get my Bachelors Degree. But, my chose was based on cost of the college and what Financial Aid was going to cover. I was accepted to my first choice University of Saint Joseph in West Hartford, CT But, I didn't jump for joy until I knew I was going to be able to afford it. Because I was on the Honor Society the University honored me a scholarship for $11,000. which only covered a part of the $32,000.00 /yr cost. I was able to get full financial aid, and two grants from the University. but, i still had $7000.00 more to get in order to go. So I had to apply for two loans a subsidized loan and an unsubsidized loan. I was surprised i got it because my finances were in such a mess from losing my job and almost losing my house . I am struggling with the money, I am also struggling with whether to finish or not. Is it worth the financial burden. I have a 21yr daughter, and a 14yr daughter . I'm struggling to make ends meet but, I've been told that getting a degree will make more options for me to getting a good job. But, when you get a scholarship you have to take 12 or more credits. and Go to school in the mainstream. I'm having a difficult time with that too. I want to go into Education but, the system is not working financially. How can a person who is well experienced and well educated afford to pay : time or money.

Ed writes:

Here we are worried about finding jobs for our young people after college (with or without load debt) and both the Dems and Repubs are increasing the number of visas for foreign workers to take those jobs. Make absolutely no sense unless you consider that the foreign workers work for less money.

Alpesh writes:

**Credentialing** is absolutely a bubble and has already burst in many disciplines (e.g., how many MBA's are out there at this point and is that credential worth a anything at all at this point?). BUT the point to note is that it is the Credential that is overvalued, NOT education itself. We actually need much MORE education than we currently provide. The problem is that 'educational' institutions have systematically de-emphasized education; many/most of them are now merely credential factories.

Mary writes:

I agree with Ken K about the cost of college.

Listening to Rebecca, I realized that Masters Degree is also 20 years
old, gasp. I have worked diligently for 10 years to make sure that
degree was a springboard to change. However I do not make a living wage.

I have been repeatedly told I am "too smart" for organizations that are
more interested in connecting or controlling groups. When I did work for
architectural offices, I was often disappointed with the way promotional
opportunities were delivered to mostly men. Twenty years ago, I did not
fit into the traditional academic disciplinary framework, even though my
interest and independent high-performance green schools, green roofs,
sustainable cities and green infrastructure has proven a field of job
growth (for others). The job growth is taking place the 21st century is
happening in communities and large metropolitan areas where there has
been progressive leadership, including generous investment in a wide
range of independent experiments/activities (new non-profits).

Hartford funders have been very reluctant to grow new non-profits,
evidently there are too many. I have been able to grow this urban
environmental stewardship organization because my husband has a
conventional job, an estimator in the construction industry. He moved up
through pounding nails, having begun working for his father. My husband,
who is very generous and supportive of many people does not have a
college degree, yet has a wonderful intelligence.

College is a great socializing context. A percentage of graduates
connect with the faculty who provided guidance into sustainable jobs,
others return to the business culture know through their family, others,
connect with friends networks that travel like a flock seeking places
where there are jobs, or create their own business. Perhaps this is why
people are leaving Ct.

Vanessa writes:

I have been out of college for 2 full years now and was fortunate to find a job in my field but am making barely enough to make ends meet each month, solely because of my student loans. Even after consolidation and choosing extended payment options (which don't really benefit me in the long run) I still struggle. It's extremely frustrating and any attempts to reduce payments are generally difficult and drawn-out. To make more than minimum payments is impossible for me, and every month I see that interest creep up. Lately, I wish I never went to college, despite actually using my degree. Money isn't everything, but when you're young and trying to get ahead, it's a BIG factor.

Mark writes:

Hello there, wnpr member here and Software Professional by trade.

Listening to your show I can't help but feel a little fleeced both as a working professional and as a taxpayer. When I hear college administrators like your guest talk about "high tech education for the jobs of the future" I can't help but laugh to myself a little.

I graduated High School only and taught myself Database Administration and Object Oriented software development. I work as a senior developer at a firm in Milford Conn, where I have had the pleasure of being responsible for teaching 3 seperate interns from various CT universities, all of whom completed Comp Sci degrees that should have made them capable of composing basic programs.

These kids were capable of doing only the most menial tasks in code, and all of them were saddled with massive student loans. None were at a level of proficiency that would help them garner employment. I get a little bitter hearing administrators demand more money for "high-tech ed" from state authorities when it's ME who ends up educating these kids to an employable level.

Love your show!

Alan writes:

What about a non-profit management pay bubble? Would a college president ever take a pay cut to reduce costs? I think not,,,

Karen writes:

I have a BS in Chemistry I earned back in the 70’s. In my 50’s I have gone back to school to earn an accounting degree as my “plan B” given the current economic climate and will achieve my degree in May ‘13. Two points: As a part time student , there is virtually no financial aid other than loans available. It would be great to see more scholarships and grants for the part time adult learner. Secondly, I attend University of St Joseph in part because they offer “half tuition” to their weekend and night students. That said, I am now looking at the real possibility of having to continue on with my masters because I can’t afford to start paying my student loan. And a large percentage of the students I am in school with are in the same boat.

Jenn writes:

I wanted to add to the conversation about college costs. Everyone cites student aid to counteract the anger over tuition prices, but when I was a freshman in 2004 I didn’t receive must student aid aside from having to take out loans because my father’s (who had passed in 2002) tax documents, along with my mother’s, were used to fill out the FAFSA registration. The university insisted that they had to use the legal documents and wouldn’t grant me any further consideration due to the missing income of my departed parent. I did receive academic scholarships but none substantial enough to soften the blow of graduating with 75k in loan debt.

I did make the choice to go to a private university, Quinnipiac, and I stand by that choice as regrettable as price has been, because the other programs for interactive design and technology in the area were not up to par with the industry the way QU is.

My education is very valuable to me and has helped me quite a bit in my four short years after, but there has to be a balance between the value and the cost. College is most definitely worth the investment but the investment shouldn’t be a life in shackles.

Sara writes:

If I was actually using my degree in psychology I would be making about $20,000 per year less than I am now as a sales rep & it's nearly impossible to pay my student loans as is. And there is little to no incentive for the loan companies to assist (there was a great article about this in the new York times last weekend)"

Joel writes:

I think you need to consider the alternatives to a traditional on campus

Edx, Udacity, Academic Earth are all free!!

I think the future will be online education plus on campus laboratories
and certifications.

Traditional on campus education versus online is akin to cd's versus mp3s.

Keith writes:

As long as there is cheap money to attend college (cheap as in interest rates and guarantees), there is no incentive to drop the price. It's like some doctors who have an insurance price for a procedure and a cash price."

Sarah writes:

A liberal arts bachelors and I'm making 15 dollars an hour at
an office that I dread will sell to a big corporation, leaving me jobless with no prospects.
And I don't think this is unusual for alot of people. What will this bubble do, if not burst??

Marianne writes:

Canada gets it right. Far more resources dedicated towards making college affordable. Smaller country, of course, but like health care - Canadians don't have to hang their future economic freedom in the balance for a diploma.