Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Making College Pay

I am reading a very helpful book about choosing colleges entitled Making College Pay: Strategies for Choosing Wisely, Doing Well & Maximizing Your Return. The great thing about this book is that it looks at college in a rational business manner and tries to help the reader take the emotion out of choosing a college. Most colleges, the authors (two savvy sisters involved in business and academia) say send the brightest students and others glossy brochures making it look like college is one big party. Maybe it is but it's an expensive one that might leave you with a hangover.

The book focuses on the real cost to families, rather than just the student and how a family may not get a good return (or any at all) on their investment. "Separating Fact from Fiction" is a good chapter warning the reader about the real facts of attending college such as:
Only 57 percent of students who enroll full time at a four-year college actually graduate within six years.

More than one-quarter of students who start college drop out before the second year.

The book shows with side by side comparisons how many of the classes at the "elite schools" are not much different than those at the university no one has ever heard of. There is a chapter on "comparison shopping" that helps a student narrow down his or her choices and focus on three basic goals:

1 )Finding a college that appeals to your interests, fits your aptitude and improves your marketability; 2) Choosing a school that fits your family's financial resources and minimizes cost, and 3) making sure that you increase the odds that you finish and get the degree.

Overall, this is a great book for parents and students looking to get through college without going broke.

Cross-posted at the PJ Lifestyle blog.



Blogger Mirwalk said...

I graduated college in 06. Took an economics class and we actually studied a report that shows which college you go to doesn't matter much. You can get more money with a Bachelor's degree if it is from an ivy league school like Harvard. However, if you are not going to go to one of those schools and pay out the back end for it, then it didn't matter what college you went to.

10:18 AM, August 09, 2011  
Blogger Unknown said...

The only tried and true method of making college education pay is to ply your trade to people with college degrees.

Some of which will then serve you coffee and make change.

That was vaguely a joke.

11:57 AM, August 09, 2011  
Blogger Ern said...

The book shows with side by side comparisons how many of the classes at the "elite schools" are not much different than those at the university no one has ever heard of.

Having done my undergraduate work at a far-from-elite university and my graduate work at a truly elite university, I'm in a position to confirm that. The quality of the teaching isn't that much different. The story, however, doesn't end there. The quality of the students is very different. That means, among other things, that:

1. the classes move faster, because the students learn more quickly, so students learn more in one course.

2. students learn more from other students (this rarely happened to me in undergraduate school, but happened quite frequently in graduate school).

3. students in class sometimes bring up points that hadn't even occurred to the teacher.

In terms of things that have nothing to do with the quality of the education at any college, I've found that:

1. the alumni network of the university at which I did my graduate work (both the university and the specific school) is far superior to that of my undergraduate school.

2. I see jobs that I wouldn't otherwise see, simply because I am an alumnus of my graduate school.

3. people look at my resume, see where I attended graduate school, and conclude that I'm very smart, even though I was just as smart (if not as well-educated) before I went there.

1:38 PM, August 09, 2011  
Blogger Dr.Alistair said...

i went to my step-staugher,s graduation and had to sit through the college president,s speech applauding the graduates for choosing such high quality education and how excited he was for their prospects with his diploma in their hands....

if she had entered the workforce two years earlier she would have earned the same pay (minimum wage) and we wouldn`t have incurred the $20,000 in costs to "educate" her.

the vet tech course is held out as an essential diploma for those choosing to work as a vet assistant in ontario, yet she works in a zoo where they don`t hire vet techs because they have to be re-trained before they can deal with animals because the vet techs aren`t taught proper procedures for working with real animals!

i don`t feel we entirely wasted our money with my step-daughter because she did learn some self-discipline and now does some dishes occasionally....but she still only makes minimum wage with little prospect for advancement.

1:50 PM, August 09, 2011  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


You really just described the differences between undergrad and grad school. I went to University of Texas as Austin for undergrad and University of Maryland at College Park for grad. While both of these are top tier schools, neither are considered "elite". The differences you noted above are exactly the differences I noted.

1. The faster pace and more material is just a reflection of the higher expectations for graduate students.

2. As an undergraduate, you tend to hang out with undergraduates regardless of major. As a graduate student you tend to hang out with those in the same department as you.

3. In grad school it's much more likely you have an honest to god genius sitting next to you, particularly talented in whatever field of study you are majoring in, whereas undergraduates are typically taking a class as a ticket punching device; it's likely they're there because it's required.


7:42 PM, August 09, 2011  
Blogger M said...

More than one-quarter of students who start college drop out before the second year.

Thought that was how it has always been and nearly intended to be that way. Just weeding out the bad and/or not interested students.

Also, I'm just curious as to how useful a book like that is to the majority of potential students. Is it possible the majority of students attend the closest college/university?

6:52 AM, August 10, 2011  
Blogger sacha said...

I just read this book. It gives a lot of good info as we start my son's college search. I feel a lot better prepared to ask the right questions from college recruiters and I hope to make the right choice for our son and his parents' pocketbook.

10:02 AM, August 10, 2011  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The most important thing in making college pay is to choose a major that society actually needs, like engineering or nursing. Don't expect to make a living with a marketing or art-history degree unless you're already so talented that you don't really need college in the first place.

2:34 PM, August 14, 2011  

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