For the last week, The Atlantic Business has been running a special report on college admissions, with a dozen articles and essays on everything from building a Match.com for applying students to assessing the landscape of online higher education. If you missed our coverage, it's archived here. Here are some highlights, including quotes, stats, and graphs.
Here is the breakdown of 21-year olds in 2009. Sixty percent aren't in college. Twenty percent didn't graduate from high school. One percent is going to the kind of schools that make headlines in rankings.
Edward Fiske, best-selling author of college guides: "Among the elite private schools, tuition is driven by what the market will bear. It's that simple. They charge a higher tuition because they can. There is literature showing that colleges behave like any nonprofit institution. They raise as much as they can, and spend as much to improve offerings. Faced with the choice between attracting pouring money into financial aid or spending it on something to improve quality of offerings, they'll often opt for the latter choice."
Stephen Joel Trachtenberg, former president of George Washington University: "Tuitions rise because costs rise. As the payroll grows, tuition goes up. Universities really do get better faculty by providing better compensation and benefits. Professors, it turns out, are economic men and women: Prestige tends to be indexed to quality and quality tends to be measured by the attributes of an institution: the laboratories, libraries, studios, playing fields, recreational and residential facilities; the services for counseling. When one talks about a top 50 university, one is talking about both perception and reality."
But subbacalaureate programs continue to be regarded as marginal in the press and the higher education mainstream. Universities turn their nose up at them. Policies and norms remain oriented towards "traditional" students. Rankings, awards, and honors go to institutions with great sports teams, prize-winning researchers, or elite student bodies--never to those that are helping nontraditional students master new skills and so that they can reenter the workforce, get promoted, or change careers.
7) ... But the "College Premium" Might Be Losing Some Steam ...
8) ... And the Last Decade Was Horrible, Even for Bachelor's Holders
Compared to other large investments that Americans make, the information that prospective students have about college costs and quality is woefully incomplete. Consumers in the market for a new car, a new house, or even a new washing machine can look to Consumer Reports, Zillow, the Kelley Blue Book, and other outlets for reams of comparable information about current prices, maintenance costs, and resale values. Sure, prospective college students have the popular U.S. News and World Report rankings, but these are largely based on institutional reputation, selectivity, and other measures that fail to capture return on investment. What if consumers want to figure out what their credential might be worth on the labor market after they graduate? Whether they'll have enough income to live comfortably and still pay back their loans? Whether students actually learn anything over the course of their program? On important questions like these, prospective students are in the dark.