More in the "Is Elite Higher Education Worth It?" Conversation

from the Washington Post’s Wonkblog

Private colleges are a waste of money for white, middle class kids

“Many parents whose kids have their eye on an exclusive, private college face a difficult question: Is it worth unloading your life’s savings or having your child take on tens of thousands of dollars in student loans?

Fortunately, for many Americans — white, middle-class kids — there’s an easy answer: Don’t pay more to go to a private college.

And the answer to the question is much more complicated for kids from families in other racial socioeconomic groups. But for white kids with well educated parents, what matters is getting a college degree, not where it came from.

“The happiest people, in general, were the ones who developed a relationship with a mentor, par-ticipated in extracurricular activ-ities or took on a major academic project — all things you can do at any school.”

The answer is much more complicated for blacks, Hispanics and those whose parents are comparatively less educated.

In Dale and Krueger’s research, these groups did seem to make more money after attending more selective schools.

…attending an elite school might provide … access to a new social circle that provides them with more economic opportunities later in life. Children of well-educated whites might already have that access and so don’t gain anything from attending an elite school….

…other explanations. …students from different circumstances pick up from their peers a set of social cues or professional habits that allow them to fit in among America’s economically secure stratum….

But even for these groups, there are important caveats. … for some, borrowing to pay tuition at a private school could be a wise decision financially. Yet the more a student has to borrow, the less likely the investment is to pay off, and borrowing … is risky…. Costs can explode if a student takes longer than four years to graduate … and if the student drops out, debt can become impossible to manage. Alternative ideas — such as starting at a community or state university, then transferring to a private one — might also be attractive.

At Least They Are Supposed to Be

from The Chronicle of Higher Education April 25, 2014
Those Master’s-Degree Programs at Elite U.? They’re For-Profit
Think Tank
Kevin Carey
HIGHER EDUCATION has a long and fraught relationship with the labor market. From colonial colleges training clergymen to the Morrill Act, normal schools, and the great 20th-century expansion of mass higher education, colleges have always been in the business of training people for careers. The oldest university in the Western world, in Bologna, started as a law school. Ask students today why they’re going to college and the most common answer is, by far, “to get a job.”

But most colleges don’t like to see themselves that way. In educatorsown minds, they arc communities of scholars above all else. Colleges tend to locate their educationamissions among the lofty ideals ofthe humanities and liberal arts, not the pedestrian tasks of imparting marketable skillsIn part, this reflectsthe legitimate complexity of some institutional missions. But the fact remains that most professors were hired primarily to teach, most institutions are not research universities, most students are enrolled in prc-profcssional programs, and, it seems, few colleges have undergraduate curricula that match their supposed commitment to the liberal-arts ideal.

It’s a nice trick-colleges and the people who work for them enjoy both the status associated with the exalted purposes of scholarship and the money that comes from playing a crucial role in building the nation’s store of human capital. Within that contradiction is a suffocating elitism and a disrespect for 
people engaged in the necessary, difficult task of preparing diverse students for the increasingly volatile world of work.

Historically, this attitude has led colleges to neglect the growing market for adult students who need to enhance or retool their marketable skills. For-profit colleges entered the void. According to recently released data from the U.S. Department of Education, some of them arc doing an abominable job.

To take one example: Over a 12-month period in 2008 and 2009, nearly 27,500 people began repayin
student loans taken out to attend the University of Phoenix’s online associate-degree program in what the U.S. Department of Education calls “office management and supervision,” in which students learn about such things as the culture of the modern business environment and how to write memos. By the fall of 2012, 9,800 of those students – more than one-third-had defaulted on those loans, with more sure to come. Phoenix alone has 20 programs with default rates over 30 percent. Other for-profit chains are just as bad,