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.

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.