Yes, the cost of college is rising. And much has been said recently about the value of a college education. But I firmly believe that there is no better investment. The reality is that your life won’t be the same if you don’t go to college.
Findings from a recent analysis of census data conducted by the Pew Economic Mobility Project show that the tough economy affected those with and without college degrees. But it also confirmed that the negative effects were less detrimental for college graduates than for those with only an associate’s or high school degree.
In our diverse, ever-changing, free society, college is right for more of our population than ever before. The fact is that the unemployment rate is twice as high for those who don’t go to college than for those who do. Yes, it is difficult to find employment right now. I tell Lasell students that college is hard and getting a job is hard; you have to work at both. Our surveys confirm that in less than 12 months our graduates find jobs or are working towards advanced degrees. Over the long term there is no surer investment than college.
Some may argue that cost of higher education is the problem and that students can’t handle the loan debt. But those are generalizations. While the default rates at for-profit colleges and among those who don’t finish college may be higher, the default rates for college graduates are relatively low.
There is no question that we all need to work harder to contain the cost of educating our students because clearly, many are graduating with too much debt. Where I see room for improvement is in support for public institutions of higher education through state and federal government grants.
The problem comes when government drastically reduces support. When that happens, and it has, public institutions increase tuition, increase class sizes and are left with huge deficits in their budgets to fill.
One could argue that if state colleges are increasing tuition and fees and seeking alternative sources of revenue they are functioning more like private colleges than public. Are these increases being used to hire additional and better faculty? To invest in more and enhanced academic programs? To eliminate deferred maintenance? Evidence would suggest that the answer to these questions is no; the increase in revenue is covering budget deficits.
So, when the financial cost of attending a public institution of higher education increases, then accessibility decreases – rapidly.
If you agree that the investment in higher education is still worthwhile, then it’s a question of accessibility that should be foremost in our minds — not a debate of the inherent value of higher education.
The quality of life, not to mention lifetime income, is not the same for those unable to attend college. More people should have access to a quality college education, and as educators, our job is to ensure that they do.Michael Alexander is president of Lasell College.