Is college worth it? Is this even the right question?

Are graduates getting value for their money? Merrimack College/Flickr, CC BY-NC-ND

Are graduates getting value for their money? Merrimack College/FlickrCC BY-NC-ND

Authored by Josipa Roksa, Associate Professor of Sociology and Education, University of Virginia, and Richard Arum, Professor of Sociology, New York University

Is a college degree worth it? Yes, on average, college graduates fare much better in the job market than high school graduates.

This question, however, ignores a more important set of issues: Are graduates getting value for their money? And are colleges preparing students responsibly for smooth transitions into adulthood?

There is no doubt, those with college degrees earn substantially higher wages. And even though the recent recession was difficult for everyone, the Current Population Survey indicates that in 2011, twice as many young adults without college degrees were unemployed as young college graduates.

But our research, published in a recent book, Aspiring Adults Adrift, shows that colleges are too often failing to impart students with critical thinking, problem solving and written communication skills that are important to their success in the labor market.

Financial challenges after a college degree

We followed close to 1,000 graduates from the class of 2009 across the United States as they transitioned from a range of four-year institutions into their lives after college. Two years after completing college, only approximately half of the college graduates not pursuing full-time graduate studies were employed full-time and earning over US $30,000. Read More...