Showing posts with label Foundation for Research on Equal Opportunity. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Foundation for Research on Equal Opportunity. Show all posts

Friday, February 3, 2023

Will a degree from your public university pay off?

 Education Secretary Miguel Cardona says people with college degrees earn one million dollars more over their lifetimes than people who only get a high school diploma. You're nuts, then, if you don't go to college.

Unfortunately, Secretary Cardona's cheerleading pitch for higher education is only partially accurate. For example, people who attend for-profit colleges don't do so well. According to a Brookings report published a few years back, nearly half (47 percent) of the people who attend for-profit colleges default on their student loans within five years of beginning repayment (p. 48, table 8). And the overall five-year default rate is 28 percent.

We also know that thousands of academic programs don't pay off. Higher Education analyst Robert Kelchen compared student -loan debt to earnings for 45,000 educational programs and identified thousands where students left school owing more in student loans than their first-year salaries.

And more recently, the Foundation for Research on Equal Opportunity ( released a report on educational outcomes for students who attend public universities. Foundation researcher Preston Cooper found Return on Investment (ROI) varied widely among the states.

Students who studied at a public university in these five states had the highest median return on investment: South Dakota ($216,027), Minnesota ($214,923), Iowa ($214,105), Kansas ($180,770), and Pennsylvania ($167,442).

At the bottom end of the Return-On-Investment scale were public universities in these five states: Hawaii (negative $5,720), Louisiana ($18,246), New Mexico ($20,877), Montana ($24,909), and Connecticut ($38,979).

Living as I do in Louisiana and only two blocks from Louisiana's flagship university, I was startled to learn that Louisiana public institutions have the lowest median return on investment of any public university system in the United States, except Hawaii, which has a negative return on investment.

Of course, not all students graduating from a Louisiana public college will end up with a low return on their college investment. Engineering graduates from LSU will do fairly well, as well as nursing graduates. 

Colleges will never admit that they operate academic programs with poor financial outcomes. There's no warning sign on the door to the sociology department or the department of gender studies saying, "Ye who enter here are lost."After all, tenured professors teach in those departments, and they must lure at least a few gullible students to sign up for their loser programs.

Young people planning their college careers need to do their own research about the universities and academic programs they are considering. Don't be seduced by the colleges' glossy brochures--the ones that show pretty cheerleaders cavorting at sporting events and kindly professors instructing intense students on how they can cure cancer.

Before choosing a college and a major, ask yourself these questions. 1) How much will it cost?

2) How much money will I need to borrow, and how will I pay it back?

3) What's the monetary return on my college investment? 

If you don't ask those questions, you may wind up with a bogus college degree, a mountain of student debt, and no clear way to earn a middle-class living.


Wednesday, February 2, 2022

College students: Avoid majoring in liberal arts, social sciences, or humanities: "Nothing was delivered"

 "Nothing was delivered," the Byrds sang more than fifty years ago, and "nothing was received."

I have no idea what the Byrds were singing about when they cut Nothing Was Delivered, but they might have been referring to college degrees.

In 2015, the Department of Education posted its College Scoreboard, allowing people to determine the return on investment for thousands of academic programs across the United States. Several think tanks and policy organizations analyzed the data, and their findings are sobering.

According to Third Way, "a center-left, public policy group," people who graduate in electrical engineering and nursing have very high returns on their investment. Most will be earning more than their student debt within five years of graduation.

On the other hand, the Foundation for Research on Equal Opportunity has terrible news for people getting degrees in the liberal arts. The poor schmucks who study art, music, philosophy, religion, and psychology are likely to end up financially worse off than if they had never gone to college. 

If you want to know more about the financial costs of majoring in liberal arts or the social sciences, you can read the various think-tank reports or the articles posted by the New York Times and the Washington Post.

But the bottom line is this. Given the transformation of the American workplace, with its increased focus on technological skills and mathematics, you would be nuts to take out student loans to get a college degree in a major that does not lead to a good job.

Why do so many colleges offer degrees that don't lead to remunerative employment? A couple of reasons. Schools have thousands of tenured professors teaching subjects for which there is falling demand. No one wants to take Professor Egghead's course on Martin Heidegger, Friedrich Nietzsche, and Soren Kierkegaard. Still, the old gasbag is tenured, and he's going to hang around the university until he is in his eighties.

Second, American universities are not subject to the laws of supply and demand. Enrollments in the humanities and the social sciences have been shrinking for decades. Colleges don't close these programs; they simply raise their prices to cover the growing cost of their bloated overhead and their unproductive faculty.

Students don't complain about rising tuition prices because they take out student loans to pay their tuition bills.  Millions of rubes don't realize they've been swindled until they graduate and suddenly realize they're hopelessly mired in college debt and have no job prospects.

As Friedrich Nietzsche observed, "Sometimes people don't want to hear the truth because they don't want their illusions destroyed." That's good advice. Maybe Nietzsche was trying to warn people not to major in philosophy.

Friedrich Nietzsche: For God's sake, don't major in philosophy!