Behind the Bumper Sticker: Is College Worth It?
With the rising cost of attending college and only a 50-50 shot at graduating, a number of headlines in the press are questioning: “is college worth it?”
To help us answer this question, Third Way hosted a breakfast a panel discussion at the fifth installment of our “Behind the Bumper Sticker” event series. The event built off a new Third Way report authored by Doug Webber that looks at the long-term economic value of a college degree by a variety of factors, including completion status, cost, and major of study. Delece Smith-Barrow of the Hechinger Report moderated a conversation with esteemed panelists: Dr. Stephanie A. Bond Huie, Vice Chancellor for Strategic Initiatives at the University of Texas System, Dr. Ted Mitchell, President of the American Council on Education (ACE) and former U.S. Undersecretary of Education, and Dr. Doug Webber, Associate Professor and Director of Graduate Studies in the Economics Department at Temple University.
The event opened with the premiere of Third Way’s video Is College Worth It?, which answered the question with a resounding “YES”. This sentiment was echoed by all three panelists who made the case that there are important financial and sociological benefits to attending college. And panelists made it a point to emphasize that college is not just a worthy investment for students, but for state and federal governments as well. That’s why states and the federal government must continue to maintain their investments in higher education. Overall, a big message of this panel was that in order for students to experience a financial return on their investment in college, they need to actually graduate. Students who drop out end up three times less likely to pay down their loans—making graduation a huge factor in making college worth it. In terms of employment opportunities, a bachelor’s degree is often a prerequisite for many jobs, giving the certificate clear value in today’s labor market. In addition to the monetary value of a degree it also leads to societal benefits such as job satisfaction, health insurance, and community engagement. That’s why panelists urged institutions to create inclusive and supportive campuses so that all students can complete their degrees on time, and highlighted key efforts at schools like Temple University and in the University of Texas System to make that happen.