Some people have recently argued that college is not worth the time or the cost. Kids drink a lot of beer, but they don't learn all that much. Instead of getting a job after they graduate, they move back home with mom and dad. And college tuition is way too high. It burdens people with a ball-and-chain of debt that will drag them down for the rest of their lives.
A lot of that tuition money doesn't even go to teaching. It goes to coaches and administrators. According to the Chronicle of Higher Education, the president of the University of California system makes over $800,000 a year. The president of Texas A&M makes over $1.6 million a year. And there are 42 presidents of private colleges who take home more than $1 million a year.
But that's just the start of what you're paying for when you write a tuition check, or take out that loan: the UCLA football coach makes over $2 million a year. Top coaches at Alabama, Texas and Arkansas all make over $5 million a year!
Now for the good news. It was brought to my attention by Jeremy Kisner who writes a blog for the financial management firm Surevest, based in Phoenix, AZ. In a post called Is College Worth the Cost? he shows that on average an adult with a bachelor’s degree earns $650,000 more over their lifetime than someone with just a high school degree. I think that number speaks for itself.
In a follow-up post Kisner cites a 2014 Gallup-Purdue survey called Great Jobs, Great Lives which summarizes many of the benefits -- both financial and non-financial -- of going to college.
The second thing that struck me: College is not a passive experience. It's not so much where you go as what you do when you get there. Students who find a mentor in college -- a professor who takes a special interest in them -- later on experience greater life satisfaction. Students also realize great benefits from working a summer job or school internship that is related to their field of study. And people who finish college in four years -- who presumably are more intensely involved in the experience -- are later found to be more satisfied with their work and their lives in general.
The one caveat? Yes, student debt affects people in a negative way. And the more debt a person shoulders, the more negatively it affects them. So the lesson: there is little or no benefit to going to a more expensive college. Kids should apply to public schools and private schools, and schools all around the country. Then they should attend the school that offers them the best deal, regardless of how well the coaches (or the players) are being paid.
One other lesson. Of course, students are better off if they can win scholarships. They are also better off if they can get their parents or grandparents to help foot the bill.
Now I know there's a controversy around the issue of whether or not parents "owe" a college education to their kids. Certainly we Baby Boomers don't owe a college education to our grandchildren. But if we have a little extra money in our IRA, it wouldn't hurt to help them out, would it?