Archives for September 2013

How to Get Both Quality and Lower Cost in College – I

Here is valuable information about how to have both lower education cost and still get the quality that you need to advance your career. Contrary to general opinion, quality and lower cost in higher education are not mutually exclusive. You can have both but you have to know how to select the university to enroll in.

Confused about what you need to do to both reduce your cost and get quality in higher education? It’s no wonder. The number of things you have to consider is mind boggling and there is not very good information available for you to make this important decision.

In the first part of this series I will share details you need about the most confusing part of this decision – quality. The cost savings come later.

Buzz Today Source: How College Affects Students: Volume 2 – A Third Decade of Research “Institutional Quality: academic expenditures per student, faculty-student ratio, percentage of faculty with Ph.D.s, tuition costs, reputational ratings, faculty salaries, and selectivity… Most have employed institutional selectivity as a single proxy measure for institutional quality.”

In Buzz Today we see how both the public and the researchers have viewed quality in higher education. In later postings of this series I will discuss more details about education quality. In those postings, I will share details on what education should be doing for you. For now, let’s stay with the common beliefs about university quality, most particularly, institutional selectivity.

Princeton University is ranked as the number one university in America by the US News and World. Princeton university is highly selective and becoming more so. At Princeton, the overall acceptance rate in 2014 for the class of 2017 was 7.29%. This is down from 9.9% in 2003. The selectivity is even more dramatic when we look at the details: 10,629 of the 26,498 applicants (40% of the total) had 4.0 grade point averages.

The truth is that, for working adults like you, Princeton University is not a feasible college choice for even if you had 4.0 grades and the money to pay the $40,170 annual cost. The point is that selectivity as a quality measure simply does not help you make the decisions you need to complete your education.

But wait! I have some good news for you. Even though selectivity has become the representation of quality in American higher education research indicates that it is not that important to the true quality of your education. Here is what the researchers tell us: “student body selectivity in and of itself may tell us little about institutional influences on general cognitive skills and intellectual growth.” In plain English, what this means is that you are not domed to an inferior education if you do not go to Princeton or Harvard.

What you need to look for to get a good education at a reasonable cost involves things other than institutional selectivity. In future posts I will share about things like cognitive skills, problem solving, communications skills and other true quality dimensions of higher education.

How to Ignore the Noise and Make the College Choices Right for You

Control what you can control and forget about the rest of the noise in the higher education debate. Is college too expensive?  Yes. Is college worth it? Yes, if you chose wisely. Can you wind up with $150,000 of debt and no job. Yes, if you chose poorly. Here we explore what you can control to get a better outcome for you while the pundits argue about policy and politics.

Buzz TodayThe Tuition is Too Damn High: Source: The Washington Post. “The Tuition is Too Damn High” is a 10 part series that ran in Wonkblog over two weeks exploring the causes and consequences of – and potential fixes for the skyrocketing costs of higher education. In spite of this general conclusion, the series concludes: “Why College is Still Worth It.” So does college raise incomes? Is it investment good enough to make widely accessible? Yes, it is. Period. Even the widely read Megan McArdle quotes James Heckman, the Nobel Prize – winning economist in Newsweek that “Even with these high prices, you’re finding a high return for individuals who are bright and motivated. If your not college ready, then the answer is no, it’s not worth it.”

The advice the experts quoted in Buzz Today here is wise advice consistent with what I am recommending to you. For you to avoid crushing student debt and end up unemployed you have to make good choices before you go back to school. It is only through these wise choices that you can earn a return on your education investment.

It seems like sound advice. The trick is “how do you do that?” Unfortunately the intense debate among the policy makers and the politicians (Is government aid actually making college more expensive?)  about the issues is of little help for the very personal choices you need to make today.

As Heckman, the Nobel Prize economist implies, you have to begin with yourself. In Your Future is Calling, I give you specific tools to do just that. For now, here are a few tips to take away from this post.

1. Make sure you have the motivation you need to do the work. Simply getting a piece of paper (a degree) is a fool’s goal. In the end, what you can do with you talent and skills from your education will determine your success. After the first interview for a job, nobody cares about the piece of paper (degree) hanging on your home office wall.

2. Do your homework. This means that you must know “who you are”. Once you know the important things about what you are good at and what motivates you (see Buzz Today), you need hard data on jobs and employment opportunities. Here I direct you to objective government data about jobs and income in the US economy. The site O*NET provides the data. Your Future is Calling shows you how to use this important data base to your personal advantage.

Start today. The choices are yours.