Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Paying the price

I have a son who has just finished at university, and a daughter who has just started, and of course I often think about the cost of university fees and how much value for money this is.  I was therefore interested to look at an infographic today which concerned attitudes towards American universities (neither of my children considered applying to US universities, so these statistics from the Pew Research Center might not actually be relevant to my family's experience).

  • 84% of university graduates reported that college was a good investment for them.  My son, who graduated in the UK, would tend to agree with these I think, as he would not have got his current job (a graduate management training scheme) without his degree.
  • 75% of adults say that college is too expensive to afford.  When considering whether to do another degree recently I certainly considered the cost.  I had to weigh this up against following my own interests and learning most of what I wanted to know for free - but not ending up with another university qualification.
  • 57% of adults say that US university education fails to provide good value for money.  At first this might seem to be in direct contradiction to the first point, however conversations with my son have shown me that while he felt he needed a degree qualification for his future career, he was extremely dissatisfied with the quality of the tuition he received in value for money terms.
This year university fees in the UK tripled to approximately 9,000 pounds a year - students who started this year are facing debts/loans of up to 50,000 pounds for tuition and maintenance for completing their education.  Not surprisingly there was a drop of about 12% in applications to UK universities, and about 50,000 less students entered universities in the UK this autumn, which could have worrying implications for the future - or maybe not.  Maybe those 50,000 are continuing with their education, but just in a non-traditional way.  Maybe they are doing online courses or simply deciding what they want to learn and then going out and learning it in other ways.  Maybe they have decided that a classic university qualification comes at too high a price and they are better off investing their money and time in other ways.  Maybe it's also time for universities to rethink how they educate their students.

Photo Credit:  Hero of the guitar by Nic McPhee, 2007 AttributionShare Alike

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