Evaluating a college education

Prospective students shouldn’t place much weight on post-graduate earning reports.

Daily Editorial Board

After years of sharp increases in college tuition rates across the nation, it’s no surprise that institutions of higher education are looking for new ways to market themselves to potential degree seekers. In order to attract students, colleges and universities must make an effort to prove that the money an undergraduate pays in tuition proves to be a worthwhile investment. One way to do this is to publicize post-graduation earnings of alumni. A bill in Congress right now called The Student Right to Know Before You Go Act “would require all colleges and universities to disclose the average cost of each program, students’ accumulated debt and post-graduate earnings,” the Minnesota Daily reported on Jan. 31. Public universities receiving federal funding currently must report similar information to the U.S. Department of Education, but this bill would make these reports public.

Providing prospective students with this information may indeed prove to be helpful when deciding if and where to go to college. However, it’s important to be mindful that the role of four-year colleges and universities is not limited to equipping students with whatever job skills the current market is in demand of. Posting the earnings of alumni may not be beneficial in creating a college atmosphere where students are encouraged to broaden their horizons and take classes in a variety of fields and subject matter.

While landing a job that provides a good income is important, there are many other factors to consider when evaluating the level of an education at a specific college or university. Publicizing graduate or professional school placement would be more applicable to potential students; because earnings are based on myriad and often unrelated factors, the dollar signs a prospective freshman sees on a website may very well not be the reality he or she faces four or more years later.