| NEW YORK
NEW YORK May 8 The message that everyone should
go to college does a disservice to the 60 percent of students
who do not finish their degrees within six years, according to
new research from Brookings Center on Children and Families, a
non-partisan research center in Washington.
These students end up with debt that is not recouped by
higher salaries later in life. And for low-income families, the
impact is even worse.
"On average, getting a college degree is a good decision,
but it isn't good for everyone. It's whether you finish, where
you go, what you major in it, and what you do," said Isabel
Sawhill, one of the authors of the report.
At the most selective schools, there is an 88 percent
graduation rate over six years compared to 35 percent at
non-competitive schools. That is why Sawhill was especially
concerned with the return on investment from community college
"They've been much celebrated as an alternative form of
education, often with an occupational focus. But 70 percent are
dropping out before getting a degree - that's totally
unacceptable," Sawhill said.
The Brookings report also found that someone working in a
science-oriented job with only a high school diploma can expect
to earn more over a lifetime than someone with a bachelor's
degree working in a field like education or the arts.
Overall, 14 percent of high school graduates make at least
as much as those with a bachelor's, and 17 percent of those with
a bachelor's make more than those with a professional degree.
BEST AND WORST RETURNS
An April study from Payscale.com, a data firm based in
Seattle, ranked 1,500 educational programs on their return on
investments for 2013. There were 74 schools that showed a return
of $1 million or more on the investment in an education, while
30 schools had a negative return on investment - meaning the
cost of attending was more than what the students would make up
with increased wages, even over a 30-year period.
The top-ranked schools all focus on engineering, including
Harvey Mudd College, California Institute of Technology,
Polytechnic Institute of New York University, Massachusetts
Institute of Technology, and SUNY - Maritime College.
At the bottom of the rankings was the Art Institute of
Pittsburgh, which had an opportunity cost of $155,000 to attend
in 2012, including living expenses and lost wages from not
working. The school had a graduation rate of 37 percent while
its 30-year net return on investment was projected as a loss of
$228,000, Payscale.com said.
Both Brookings and Payscale said they intended their reports
to inform students about the long-term earning prospects of
certain institutions and college majors. The release of the data
was timed to when most students make their college decisions.
Payscale also releases an annual report in September, when
students typically choose majors, to help them make informed
choices about the long-term value of the careers they choose to
Katie Bardaro, lead economist for Payscale, said this survey
also measures the "meaningfulness" of various degrees, rather
than just the cold calculus of a salary.
"A lot of the jobs that don't pay well do have a societal
benefit," she said.
The key is for students to know the monetary impact of a
program so they can have reasonable expectations.
"Most people don't think about it. They choose based on
name-brand factors and the availability of extracurriculars and
they think about fun. But a lot of those benefits are temporary,
and earnings are permanent," Bardaro said.
Florida Hospital College of Health Sciences had the
most-satisfied students, with a 97 percent ranking of high job
meaning. A typical mid-career graduate, usually in a nursing
field, earns $71,000.
Resources to find top programs include the Institute for
Education Sciences College Navigator web site ()
and the College Scorecard by the U.S. Department of Education's
College Affordability and Transparency Center ().