Tuesday, February 18, 2014

In the News: Is Higher Education Worth the Cost?

As I've floundered over how to help my husband support our family, a desire to complete my degree has crept up on me again. I'm only nine classes away from my Associate's Degree. Now, partially I want to complete the program just to say it's done. At this point in my life, however, I wonder how valuable it will be.

After meeting with a college adviser, I discovered those nine classes--at a community college--would cost over $13,000. Can I justify that expenditure when we are only six years shy of having a child in college? In eight years, we'll have two girls in college. Though it was highly encouraged based upon my 4.0 that I seek out scholarship opportunities, how much of that money is going to be awarded to an over 40 mother looking to finish off her degree?

The Saturday/Sunday, January 4-5, 2014 edition of The Wall Street Journal had an interesting article in its Review section titled, "Degrees of Value: Making College Pay Off." This article is an essay adopted from Glenn Harlan Reynolds' new book, The New School: How the Information Age Will Save American Education From Itself. Reynolds is a professor at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville. A portion of that essay highlighted in the article states, "To remain viable, colleges and universities need to cut expenditures dramatically." Reynolds says that while there is no simple solution, changes are beginning to emerge.

Reynolds attacks the issue from both sides. He says that while schools must adjust to the new economic reality, wiser choices by families are an important piece of the puzzle. Carefully selecting a practical major or attending community college are suggestions mentioned in the essay. While Reynolds says some colleges and universities are offering hidden discounts in the form of increased financial aid, what's really needed is a major structural change, which goes back to the highlighted quote mentioned above.

Many schools are already using low-paid adjuncts to teach classes, but Reynolds says this could be extended to administrators so that these lower paid adjunct administrators managed routine functions. He also suggests budget transparency. Along with new instructional methods Reynolds discusses, perhaps this will help lower costs of higher education.

You can read the full article at http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702303870704579298302637802002

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