As tuition prices continue to rise at both public and private schools, it’s important for today’s students and their parents to consider the value of a college degree. The value of a degree program can be measured in many ways, from official metrics and statistics to the opportunities afforded to students after they set foot on the college’s campus for the first time. To get the total picture of a school’s long-term value proposition, it’s important to consider value through both official statistics and other programs unique to each college.
First, Start with the College’s Official Statistics
The best way to assess whether a given college will make a solid long-term investment is to look at key figures that indicate student satisfaction with what that particular school has to offer. Sites like the College Board “Big Future” college search database and the Department of Education’s College Navigator make this research easy. Both sites show the per-credit cost of attendance, estimated part-time and full-time tuition, and an estimate of fees to be paid.
Furthermore, each site contains a unique list of key figures, including the applicant acceptance rate, the percentage of first-year students who return for a second year at the school, and the percentage of first-year students who graduate with a degree within six years of taking their first classes. This shows pretty clearly whether the cost of tuition is affordable up-front as well as whether the cost pays off over the long-term.
Harder to Quantify: Offering Opportunities to Students
It’s tempting to evaluate each college only in terms of its costs, percentages, and perceived long-term outcomes. While important, this is not the only good way to judge whether a school’s tuition is worth the investment. Prospective students and their parents also need to assess value in terms of opportunity. A good university should offer students the chance to get involved with on-campus organization, ranging from Greek organizations to professional societies and honor societies. The school should also be ready to help students find an internship in their field while they study, giving them valuable work experience that will help them land a full-time role after they graduate.
Students need to make sure that the school is about more than the classroom experience. The school must also be committed to the full development of the student, academically, professionally, and socially. This is what really drives the value equation in favor of the student over the long course of their careers.
Financial Aid: Look for Non-Loan Programs
Finally, one last way to enhance the value of a school’s tuition is a generous grant and scholarship program within the financial aid office. Schools with healthy alumni support are usually able to offer many generous scholarships based on a student’s merit, major and professional achievements while enrolled. This aid will reduce the student’s loan burden and enhance the return on investment of tuition, since the student will effectively be paying less per semester than they would be without these grant programs in place.
Value Comes from Many Different Areas
The value of an education should be about more than the raw data of a school’s attendance figures. Indeed, a great value in higher education blends student data with opportunities, grant programs, and professional successes after graduation. Keep these many significant factors in mind when researching the value of a college degree at each institution.