Why Doing Your Homework Is So Important

In earlier blog posts we looked at why the traditional quality measures of high price and tight admissions selectivity provides little helpful information for adult learners making university and career decisions.  The example was the grand daddy of all high quality American Universities, Harvard University.

But even with the detailed look at what makes Harvard great, you are still left with little practical information about how to select a career and a university.  These decisions are both explored in detail in my book, Your Future is Calling.  In BUZZ Today we see a very practical case study for someone attending a school other than Harvard.   Buzz TodaySource: Hechinger Report     Joyce English was about to start studying toward an associate degree she hoped would lead to a job as a consultant to healthcare companies around Tacoma, Wash., where she lives. Then she discovered a database. English changed her mind and is now majoring in what she learned is the more lucrative field of business management at Pierce College.

The point of our discussion in this blog is that there is good information to help you select both a career and a college.  That information is more detailed and more specific to your decisions than the traditional data available in popular sources.

The Buzz Today source has specific information available in a study called “New Pressure on Colleges to Disclose Grad’s Earnings”.  Here are a few facts.

New data is available about career and college decisions.  I talk about them in Your Future is Calling.  (Note: Very detailed information about Pierce College for example, is available in Chapter 9 of the book titled: “How to Select the Right School”).   New data is becoming available.

In Virginia, graduates of four-year nursing programs earn more than twice as much as liberal-arts majors, on average, and graduates of the University of Richmond make almost 72 percent more than graduates of Hollins University. In Tennessee, majors in health professions make two and a half times what philosophy and religious-studies majors make, and graduates of the University of Memphis earn 13 percent more than graduates of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.

The point of this discussion is not to direct you to Virginia or Tennessee or even to a specific college or university.  The point of this discussion is to make the point that it does matter what you study and where you go to school. You need good information to make good choices.

While income is not the only thing to consider, it is an important consideration for over 90% of those surveyed.  In the end, your biggest challenge is to invest in education and a career that fits “who you are” but income is clearly a factor in those decisions.  The take away is to choose wisely based on solid information.

Selecting a College or University – Part IV


In an earlier post we looked at higher education quality in terms of price and selectivity.  That blog focused on price in particular.  Here we are taking a critical look at the second quality parameter – selectivity.  We return to the crème de crème of American higher education, Harvard University.  Buzz TodaySource:  The Harvard Crimson – An all time low 5.9 percent of applicants received offers to join Harvard’s class of 2016.  This marks the seventh consecutive year that Harvard’s admission rate has fallen (become more selective). 

We can see in the BUZZ Today that Harvard is proud of being highly selective. The university broadcasts its selectivity relative to its highly selective competitors like Yale and Princeton.  But the question is: “what does this high selectivity mean for the returning adult learner?”  Unfortunately, those of us who are mere mortals will never have the opportunity to go to Harvard.  What is the average adult learner to do?

Let me first provide some comfort when it comes to selectivity of admissions.  The fact is, that the selectivity is much more about the students attending the university than it is about the university itself.  To this you might say: “but hold on, these are some of the very smartest kids in the land!” To this I reply – True.  But to help you make your selection decision we need to know what this means for the highly selective university and more importantly, what this means for you.

First the University:  By having the option to make sure that those entering Harvard are the best of the best, Harvard University vastly increases the likelihood of those getting a degree from Harvard are the most successful graduates.  Salaries and public acclaim verify that success.

But that is not the entire story.  There is little research that definitively shows that the relative success of Harvard University graduates are the result of what they learned at school (relative to what is learned at other universities).  It is much more likely that the success is the result of the quality of the students entering Harvard.  As a result, we should not be surprised that these students remained among the best and brightest once they graduated from Harvard.

For the more average Joe or Jane, Harvard selectivity helps little in the decision about quality and what university to attend.  For more details see:   Your Future is Calling.

Selecting A College or University Part III

Price and Quality

Quality of education is one of the most confusing things about American higher education.  There are no good quality measures routinely reported. The most common education quality parameters actually work against the modern learner, especially adult learners.
Buzz TodaySource:   Your Future is Calling   For example, it is clear from comparisons that the cost for a four-year graphic design major varies tremendously. At the low end of our example we have an annual cost of $6,914 per year at Columbia College versus $42,360 at Boston University.

To understand this dilemma, we need merely look at the premiere University in America today – Harvard University.  Beside being the original American university with the largest financial endowment, Harvard is cited as the university giving the highest quality of education.  Unfortunately, actual Harvard quality parameters  cannot even be used by returning adult learners to make a choice.

When we boil it down, the two cited quality parameters most critical to our perception or quality are price and selectivity.  Why?  Because as an adult living in Kansas City, Missouri we do not have the time or resources to travel to Boston and take several days to visit the campus, talk to faculty and sit in one of the dozens of libraries this esteemed institution has on its campus.

Given this reality, it is important to examine what price and selectivity mean to the college selection decision.  When it comes to price, we have a general set of beliefs that apply to nearly all purchase decisions.  Unless we have direct experience with the product or service our general belief is that high price must mean high quality, otherwise why would people continue to pay for it?  In general, this is not a bad assumption, especially for an institution that has been around for hundreds of years as Harvard University has been.

It is the inverse of the high price/high quality assumption that really hurts the average Joe or Jane when selecting a college.  The inverse assumption is that low price (tuition) means low quality.  Now before you come out of your shoes about low cost higher education stop and hear me out.  There are very good higher education options that are available for one half to one third the tuition cost of Harvard.  To consider them you have to know which colleges those are.

The point of this conversation about price and quality in American higher education is that these commonly cited quality indicators simply do not help the majority of adult learners returning for their education.  In the end, these learners need far better information than price to make a quality decision.   See Your Future is Calling for specifics.