Here We Go Again

Douglas Belkin wrote an article for the Wall Street Journal entitled, “Debt, Regrets Mar College for Many.”

The article was based on a survey funded by the Strada Education Network, a nonprofit in Indiana dedicated to helping young people complete college and launch their careers.

The story begins with the statement that U.S. policymakers have long pushed high school students to go to college.  They cite studies showing college graduates make more money, enjoy better health and pay more taxes.  But in reality students who rush into college and incur debt and don’t obtain a degree can be far worse off than those who didn’t go at all.

A new Gallup Report highlights the amount of “buyer’s remorse” many people feel about their college experience.

More than half of the 90,000 persons, surveyed said they would change at least one of their past decisions.  Thirty-six percent would choose a different major, 28 percent would choose a different school and 12 percent would pursue a different degree.

The people with the most misgivings are liberal arts majors who earned a bachelor’s degree; 48 percent said they would have chosen a different major and 57 percent said they would have made at least one decision differently.

Ms. Carol D’Amico, executive vice president with Strada, said, “The voice of the consumer is absent in higher education.”  We’ve gotten the message out that many good-paying jobs require credentials after high school. What’s less clear are the options open to them to follow their passion.

Those who expressed the least regret were best able to align their education with a career.  Those students who studied a trade or attended graduate school had fewer qualms.  The people most unhappy were those who dropped out of college.  And those undergraduates who studied science, technology, business, engineering or math had fewer misgivings than those who studied liberal arts.

People also who graduated after age 30 were more satisfied with their educational decisions than their younger counterparts.

In a companion article, it talked about as enrollment in general management programs across the U.S. decline, schools have augmented their graduate programs with shorter, more specialized courses, such as, church management, supply chain management and marketing analytics as well as fashion.

“With freezes on further increases in tuition, these specialty programs are the only mechanism that universities have to generate incremental revenue,” said Brian Cameron, associate dean at Penn State University.

The most popular specialty programs are still those in the finance, accounting and marketing fields, These new degrees cost about $96,000 –  versus a two-year M.B.A at NYU’s Stern School of Business at $138,000.

Not everyone thinks that these new courses are a good thing.  All this could backfire, if it creates a glut of specialized programs.  “In what other industry would you handle the problem of shrinking demand for your product by growing the supply?” said Andrew Ainslie Dean of the University of Rochester Simon Business School in New York.

Finally, people are waking up to the reality that courses like women studies and black studies are a waste of time and money.  Councilors need to inform students of what your job prospect is by pursuing any degree.