Re: Young Alumni Say College Was ‘Worth It’

by Robert VerBruggen

Jason — I respectfully disagree with you on that study. So far as I can tell, the methodology seems sound — they surveyed a wide variety of grads from all over the country and found that 90 percent thought college was worth it.

Yes, the study could have been more thorough, and it doesn’t prove that college is a good investment. As you mention, there’s the potential of psychological bias (with students trying to justify their decision to attend college, even if they ended up in a non-college job), and it would be interesting to see the number broken down by debt load (as rare as debts in the “six figures” are). Also: Would kids still have found it “worth it” if they hadn’t been given government subsidies, and had to make the full investment themselves? What about the 40 percent or so of college freshmen who don’t graduate within six years — do they think it was worthwhile to invest in college and then not get a credential? And what about the parents, who in many cases make more of an investment than the kids do? A kid may not mind partying for four years and then taking a non-college job, but the parent who footed the bill might feel differently.

But I hardly think these quibbles add up to a credible accusation of “misusing data” or trying to trick the public into “roll[ing] over when the words ‘study’ or ‘percent’ make an appearance.” They did a survey asking grads whether they thought their investment was worth it, found that 90 percent said yes, and reported this very interesting number alongside an accurate description of their methodology. If the number had been 40 percent, I’d certainly be treating it as evidence that fewer people should go to college, and I can’t blame the college-for-everyone crowd for using the number that actually came out.

Phi Beta Cons

The Right take on higher education.