Three Concrete Ways to Measure the Value of Higher Education
With tuition prices rising and rising frustration about the achievement gap in higher education, institutions are increasingly being asked to justify their value. The Conversation recently issued a challenge to three prominent university presidents: Using just one method or metric, how would they help the public understand the importance of a college education?
Michael Drake, president of The Ohio State University, didn’t mince words when it came to his reply: “If living a longer, healthier and happier life is a good thing, then, yes, college is worth it.” Though he acknowledges that average life expectancy has gone down for two years in a row, he points out that there’s a growing gap between rich and poor when it comes to life span. “Higher education may, in other words, be part of the solution to this problem,” he tells The Conversation.
For Michael Schill, president of the University of Oregon, social mobility is the key value of higher education. A first-generation student himself, Schill says that “despite some skepticism about the value of higher education on the part of pundits and politicians, it is well-documented that there is no better way for young people to achieve the “American Dream” than by getting a college degree. And since first-generation students make up a full third of undergraduates in the U.S., their upward mobility is important to maintain a thriving economy.
“At its best, higher education gives us the freedom to make decisions based on our values, desires, human talents and willingness to work hard, says Mark Schlissel, president of the University of Michigan. He points out that success in America has long been linked to education, and credits education with creating a society able to change their future for the better.