College Students, Value of College, Etc.

A Pew Research Study shows some interesting things about college that I think English professors might be interested in.

Are students getting worse?
First, it found that college presidents don’t think students today are as good as students of yesteryear.

A 58%-majority of college presidents say public high school students arrive at college less well prepared than students of a decade ago. Just 6% say public high schools are doing a better job at preparing students for college than a decade ago, while 36% say they are doing about the same job. Once the students are settled on campus, the outlook remains equally pessimistic. More than half of college presidents (52%) say today’s students are studying less than students did a decade ago. Only 7% say students are studying more, and 40% say students are doing about the same amount of studying as college students did 10 years ago.

What do we think the value of college is, in general and in particular?
The study also showed that:

A majority of Americans (57%) say the higher education system in the United States fails to provide students with good value for the money they and their families spend. An even larger majority (75%) says college is too expensive for most Americans to afford. At the same time, however, an overwhelming majority of college graduates (86%) say that college has been a good investment for them personally.

Monetary Payoff. Adults who graduated from a four-year college believe that, on average, they are earning $20,000 more a year as a result of having gotten that degree. Adults who did not attend college believe that, on average, they are earning $20,000 a year less as a result. These matched estimates by the public are very close to the median gap in annual earnings between a high school and college graduate as reported by the U.S. Census Bureau in 2010: $19,550.

So we like it ourselves, but think it doesn’t do a good job for other people. It’s too expensive, but way more people are going. If you go, you make more money. If you don’t, you are less likely to make money.

Perception is clearly at odds with reality.

Why go to college?

Just under half of the public (47%) says the main purpose of a college education is to teach work-related skills and knowledge, while 39% say it is to help a student grow personally and intellectually; the remainder volunteer that both missions are equally important. College graduates place more emphasis on intellectual growth; those who are not college graduates place more emphasis on career preparation.

2 thoughts on “College Students, Value of College, Etc.”

  1. I think a lot of students go into college thinking: job training. And, almost by accident, a small, but significant majority actually learn something.

    Wonder if the guys from Academically Adrift measured that.

  2. What people are forgetting is that many career paths and job skills are now directly related to a “knowledge economy”. Computer science majors, for instance, don’t realize that while programming is a job skill, so is the creative thinking process that underlies program/software design. Business majors don’t realize that much management success comes from wide reading and critical analysis. The “Jeffersonian ideal” is not being well-translated into the skills that people need today to move from one job to the next – or to develop the job/knowledge that no one else can see yet.

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