Report measures colleges' return on investment for students

Dive Brief:

  • PayScale released its latest report measuring the return on investment for students graduating from 1,400 different public and private nonprofit colleges throughout the country, marking 10 years since it first published data measuring the money students from certain colleges made after graduating, according to Inside Higher Ed.
  • The PayScale report mirrored results from other studies, revealing that colleges specializing in engineering or science disciplines offer the best ROI for students, in addition to finding that public colleges offer a better ROI, which is likely due to having much lower tuition and ancillary costs than private institutions.
  • PayScale’s reports are also criticized for a variety of reasons, with some troubled by an education’s value being judged solely on the income made afterwards, while others question how representative PayScale’s data is — its newest report is based on data from 1.3 million students over the past 10 years, all done on a voluntary basis.

Dive Insight:

Nearly three dozen states have enacted or are working to enact policies that allocate a portion of funding to public institutions based on performance according to certain rubrics, including course completion, the time it takes for students to earn a degree, or the number of low-income graduates. Judging institutions based on ROI is another metric, and provided the data can withstand scrutiny, it seems understandable that such information would be of use to potential applicants and families.

However, the question remains on how best to judge the value of the education received at a college. ROI may not always be the wrong metric, but it may be wrong for some. If a student gets a postsecondary education in pursuit of a degree that will help them attain the job they want, most would concur that the degree served a purpose regardless of whether the ROI is sizable. However, judging the emotional satisfaction derived from a degree is even trickier than PayScale’s mission. The company relies on self-reports of salaries without a good way to verify them. It could be an even harder to determine the personal satisfaction garnered by an undergraduate education

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Filed Under: Higher Ed