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How Do I Define the Value of a Bachelor’s Degree?

bachelor valueCalculating the cost of college should be more about assessing the value of a bachelor’s degree than simply looking at the tuition and fees charged for attendance. Even so, many students and their parents aren’t exactly sure how to measure the costs of such a program and turn them into a value proposition. So many metrics are associated with college attendance and the costs charged to students that this can seem like a daunting task, and the added value of things like degree prestige, networking opportunities, and honor societies, are all quite hard to quantify. Here’s what to know when determining the value of an undergraduate program.

Start with the Real Numbers: Cost, Retention, Graduation

The first thing to understand about college attendance is that there are real numbers that can help clarify the quality and value of any school’s programs. First and foremost, students and their parents need to look at the cost of attendance. This cost should include, the tuition rate for full-time attendance, applicable room and board charges, per-semester fees and surcharges, and the average cost of textbooks for two semesters per year. This calculated cost will always seem daunting, but it’s worth comparing several schools to get an idea of average and acceptable costs for the program.

Next, look at the retention rate of first-year students as well as the percentage of first-year students who graduate from the same school within six years of initial enrollment. High percentages tend to correlate with high quality and high value, while the opposite is also true. With these metrics in mind, it’s time to consider the subjective indicators of degree value.

How Big is the Alumni Association?

Part of a school’s value is derived from its alumni, who often network professionally and support each other through employment and promotion at various companies. A large and active alumni association adds real value to the degree that keeps on working on the student’s behalf for the rest of their lives in the workforce. Of course, the opposite is also true: A lackluster alumni association indicates poor involvement of graduates and a potentially more challenging time in the “real world’ for students who stay at the school through graduation.

What Opportunities Are There to Get Involved?

One of the key ways for students to build a strong resume, and therefore increase the value of their degree program, is to get involved in on-campus organizations and honor societies. These activities are about more than simply listing them on a resume, however: They’re also about networking and making friends who will work together later in life. An active campus life, with professional organizations, social organizations, and honor societies, will benefit students dramatically and indicate a degree program with a better overall value.

What is the School’s Reputation with Employers?

This can be hard to assess, but an online search will help clarify whether employers respect and hire graduates from the school. Some schools have earned great reputation for producing highly competent graduates that add real value to their organizations after graduation. As a result, the school’s brand is more powerful and the student enjoys a greater value after graduation compared with the price paid during enrollment.

It can be hard to quantify how much a bachelor’s degree is worth, both in terms of value and lifetime compensation. Thanks to online databases, student review sites, and the ability to search scholarly resources online, however, it has never been easier to find the exact value of a bachelor’s degree at virtually every institution of higher learning.

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