Recent Survey Reveals Only 21% of Parents Feel Cost of College Is Justified

Posted By Terri Williams on March 21, 2016 at 2:00 pm
Recent Survey Reveals Only 21% of Parents Feel Cost of College Is Justified

Today, there seems to be a general consensus about the importance of a college education. In fact, research shows that many employers are now engaging in a practice known as “upcredentialing,” – requiring at least a bachelor’s degree for jobs that used to require a high school diploma or an associate degree.

However, with sticker prices ranging from over $19,000 a year for in-state public schools to more than $43,000 annually for private colleges, opinions are all over the board regarding the return on investment that students actually receive on a college degree.

According to a recent survey by Kaplan Test Prep and MONEY Magazine, many parents and high school counselors are questioning the value-for-cost of college. Selected survey results reveal:

When asked if they thought the cost of college is clearly justified for the value it delivers:

  • 21% of parents agree
  • 58% of parents don’t agree
  • 21% of parents aren’t sure

Only 37% of high school counselors strongly agree that the cost of college is clearly justified. When asked how often this topic arises during conversations with parents:

  • 12% of high school counselors say it is always discussed
  • 30% of high school counselors say the topic often comes up
  • 32% of high school counselors say the topic comes up sometimes
  • 22% of high school counselors say the topic rarely comes up
  • 4% of high school counselors say the topic never comes up

A recent study by Zogby Analytics reveals that college students expect their college degrees to translate into employability and career growth. And unemployment rates are much lower among college graduates than those without a degree. However, salaries vary greatly among the highest-paying and lowest-paying college degrees.

And affordability is a major concern. College students are incurring student loan debt at a record-breaking pace. However, Dave Henderson, certified financial planner with Client One Securities in Greenwood Village, Colorado tells GoodCall, “Student debt can be a negative, but it can also be a great benefit if your student loans allow you to get the education you need to enter the profession you want.” He says he is less concerned about student debt than consumer debt. “An education can give you a leg up in life, while running up a maxed out credit card gives you a hole to dig out of,” explains Henderson.

However, it’s important to note that student loan debt may be much higher than anticipated. Stephanie Kennedy, co-founder of My College Planning Team, points out that most students anticipate earning their degree in four years. “However, if a student takes five or six years to graduate, the cost of college increases by that much more – and even if they have a merit scholarship, it rarely applies to a fifth or sixth year,” explains Kennedy. And since affordability and financial aid can vary among colleges, the right financial aid package is an important factor.

Maximizing your investment

For students, the key may be taking advantage of every opportunity to capitalize on the higher education experience. Aaron Michel, co-founder and CEO at PathSource, tells GoodCall that students should research the type of career services each individual school provides.

“Consider the types of internships they offer, what types of connections they have in various industries, and how well alumni have done professionally,” advises Michel, who adds that these factors will have a larger impact on a student’s career than the amount of tuition they pay each year.

Kennedy agrees and tells GoodCall that internships and relevant work experience prior to graduation can make a difference in the job search process – and they’re not just for a select few. She advises students to reach out and meet others who can help them on the path to success. “For example, alumni connections can not only help new graduates connect to internships and jobs, but also provide a lifelong network of opportunity and  bonding.”

Kennedy also recommends that students take advantage of “impact opportunities,” instead of seeing them as activities that keep students busy during their college years. “College is a prime time for students to identify, apply and reaffirm their values and contribution to the world beyond their occupation.”

Also, another factor that many people don’t consider is the academic fit, and Kennedy notes that students have different learning styles and colleges have different teaching styles. “A good fit increases the likelihood of student persistence and therefore graduation and success,” says Kennedy.

We’ll give the final word to Michael Boothroyd, executive director of college admissions programs at Kaplan Test Prep. “For most parents, paying for college is going to be one of the most consequential investments of their lives,” says Boothroyd.  And like many investments, he says it will take a considerable amount of time to notice a return, so he can understand why so many parents may question its value.

And while Boothroyd see no problem with asking questions and being introspective – since that’s the mark of smart investors – he says that it’s important to remember that many of the best investments are long-term. “A college education will help their kids secure good jobs, lower their chances of being unemployed and make them more well-rounded individuals.”

Terri Williams
Terri Williams graduated with a B.A. in English from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Her education, career, and business articles have been featured on Yahoo! Education, U.S. News & World Report, The Houston Chronicle, and in the print edition of USA Today Special Edition. Terri is also a contributing author to "A Practical Guide to Digital Journalism Ethics," a book published by the Center for Digital Ethics and Policy at Loyola University Chicago.

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