"Some people make the decision to do more school kind of naively assuming it will assure them a good job and higher income than they make now," said economist Richard Vedder, director of the Center for College Affordability & Productivity. "I had a guy cut a tree down for me the other day with a master's degree in history."Richard Vedder was quoted in this Chronicle of Higher Education article discussing a study on disadvantaged students and their college choice:
Adults who consider further education have to look at it as an investment, Vedder said.
"It's a human capital investment decision," Vedder said. "Assuming you are thinking about returning to [school] solely for making money then you have to weigh the expected increase in your income and how long you expect to earn that income as opposed to the costs."
While the data suggest that more education is good for workers, Vedder cautions that such estimates are only averages, and individual experiences can vary whether the student is a child or parent.
"If you are going to get a master's degree in history it will probably have a smaller payoff than if you get an MBA," Vedder said. "It's often very hard to assess what the gains will be from school."
If parents decide to send themselves back to school, they need to consider the cost of tuition fees, as well as income forgone while training. Often adult students have to reduce their work at a regular job, Vedder said.
"There is a growing number of Americans with a fairly good-sized student-loan debt," Vedder said. "When students plan to go to college they should weigh their own prospects."
Richard K. Vedder, a professor of economics at Ohio University and director of the Center for College Affordability and Productivity, calls the paper "very interesting and generally well done." But he offers a few concerns.Daniel Bennett was cited in this FrumForum post:
"The authors fail to mention the fact that for most, higher education is both a consumption and an investment purchase," Mr. Vedder writes. "Perhaps all the authors are saying, in effect, is that for those who actually attend college (mostly middle-class kids), college is to a considerable extent an exercise in socialization and recreation, whereas for nonattendees from less-advantaged backgrounds, higher education is considered mostly an investment good. This is not inconsistent with economists' conceptualization of individuals trying to maximize their satisfaction in life."
It also would have been better, Mr. Vedder suggests, for the scholars to have considered variations in the quality of colleges attended by students of different college-going propensities.
Over the past ten years, the cost of college has risen by more than double the rate of inflation. This is because payrolls have mushroomed as staff sizes for administrative positions have soared. Daniel L. Bennett, in an article for Forbes last summer entitled “Bureaucrat U”, found that colleges have spent the past decade hiring armies of administrative staff, and creating positions like “recreation therapist” at the University of Florida and a “director of Fraternity and Sorority Life” at the University of Maryland. By 2014, Mr. Bennett notes, there will be more administrative employees at America’s colleges than teachers.
Mr. Bennett describes academia as a “sellers market,” in which America’s major colleges work together to ensure a Soviet-style dissemination of information to the public. Mr. Bennett would like to see information about the value of each college’s education “publicly available in a digestible manner.”