To The Daily Sun,
Like a recent letter writer (“For many, a college education just isn’t worth the money”), I think that it’s important to ask the tough questions, even if those questions challenge some of our oldest institutions. When we do so, however, we should be sure to ground our challenges in facts.
He started with the argument that the “lifetime wage earnings differential of a degreed person over a high school graduate has never been less.” But the average return rate for a college education is 13 percent and has been consistently higher than long-returns, even the stock market, for about 100 years, according to the Productivity and Prosperity Project at Arizona State University.
He then claims that students with and without degrees are making “identical” wages. But according to the Economic Policy Institute, college graduates earned 56 percent more than high school graduates in 2015. Moreover, college graduates earn about one million dollars more over their lifetimes than high school graduates. Even accounting for student loan debt, that is a significant difference.
Additionally, the Center on Education and the Workforce reports that nearly 80 percent of jobs lost in 2008’s recession were held by people without a college degree and that over 95 percent of jobs created during the recovery went to workers with at least some college education. A college education thus provides a significantly better salary in good economic times and protection in worse economies.
The letter writer stated, “Education has rushed to remote learning under the guise it’s as good as face-to-face.” In the midst of a worldwide pandemic, universities did whatever they could to allow students to continue their studies and move toward degree completion. They are distinctly different and provide different strengths and weaknesses. But virtually no one thinks they are the same.
Next, he suggests that those who work in higher education don’t want “remote” education to “plow under what is the ultra-expensive, ultra-liberal, ultra-elite campus experience they relish as much for themselves as students.” These conservative talking points like to paint higher education as liberal indoctrination factories. Study after study shows that conservative students on campus do not feel this way. In many legitimate studies, these talking points are proven wrong, often by Republicans themselves attempting to prove their point and failing to do so.
In his discussion of budgets and higher education, what the writer neglects to note is the return on investment we get from those investments in our future. New Hampshire is ranked last in per student spending. In spite of that low support, New Hampshire’s colleges and universities had an overall economic impact of $6.4 billion in that same year and directly employed almost 30,000 people.
I agree that college is not for everyone, but there are always those whose careers and lives lend themselves to making the investment.