What’s More Expensive Than College? Not Going to College

Our recent class conversations talked about international education and this article (http://m.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2012/03/whats-more-expensive-than-college-not-going-to-college/255073) had a different angle to add to the conversation. The article tosses around a lot of statistics related to unemployment rates in the Middle East and Asia, and cites articles that claim increases in our national GDP and earnings by means of education reform. An interesting quote from the website was:

Finally, a study from the Hamilton Project found that $100,000 spent on college at age 18 would yield a higher lifetime return than an equal investment in corporate bonds, U.S. government debt, or hot company stocks.

My first impression of the statement was on how they are minimalizing the magnitude of $100,000 as if it is no big deal when you consider a lifetime. But even so, the article makes a good point about the connection between the rate of enrollment in higher education to the highest income countries. So maybe the cost of education is going up but we really need to be focusing on how expensive it would be if you just didn’t go.

4 thoughts on “What’s More Expensive Than College? Not Going to College

  1. I think you’re absolutely right, but it is important to keep in mind that the quote, the one that cites the Hamilton Project’s finding that the lifetime return of an investment of $100,000 in a college degree, is based on a comparison of the lifetime earnings of those (in the U.S.) who have a college degree relative to those who have only a high school diploma, an apples-to-oranges comparison because those populations tend to be very different (including having different earning potential) long before they ever step foot on a college campus. Many of the other statistics in that article have a similar flaw, for example, “Today, college grads earn 80 percent more than people who don’t go to high school.” But those who don’t go to high school are already strapped with many other, often far more significant, disadvantages than simply lacking a college degree, and those factors are almost certainly the primary drivers of the disparity.

    • You are absolutely correct. I can personally speak to many of those disadvantages, but I would have to say there are numerous parallels when it comes to the disadvantages of the underprivileged, whether you do it in the context of comparing within American academics or across international academics. So whether you want to put it in the context of lack of money, having children at a young age / family obligations, poor academic opportunities leading up to college, or many other contexts, all too many times you could remove the names and other identifying information to end up with the same stories with the same issues across national boundaries.

      One thing I would have to say is the article focused on one part of the “solution.” There are so many other aspects of life that are competing for your attention. Some people have one or two, others have dozens and sometimes at a much greater magnitude, which ultimately makes it impossible to pursue academics the same way everybody else does and leaves higher academics completely unreachable. What these people need is a life solution, not a problem solution. If we can fix the life solutions, then the academics solution they suggest would be a no-brainer.

  2. Pingback: The “cost” of not going to college » bart

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