Overvaluing a college degree

How to measure the value of a college degree is an interesting question: should it be measured in dollars, experiences, things learned? If one is measuring in terms of future monetary value, Businessweek reports on a new study suggesting a college degree has been overvalued:

Over the course of a working life, college graduates earn more than high school graduates. Over the past decade, research estimates have pegged that figure at $900,00, $1.2 million, and $1.6 million.

But new research suggests that the monetary value of a college degree may be vastly overblown. According to a study conducted by PayScale for Bloomberg Businessweek, the value of a college degree may be a lot closer to $400,000 over 30 years and varies wildly from school to school. According to the PayScale study, the number of schools that actually make good on the estimates of the earlier research is vanishingly small. There are only 17 schools in the study whose graduates can expect to recoup the cost of their education and out-earn a high school graduate by $1.2 million, including four where they can do so to the tune of $1.6 million.

The article goes on to list the best colleges for a return on one’s investment and mentions that some schools have taken issue with the methodology of the study. The top 10 schools for returns are what you would expect: MIT, CIT, the Ivys plus Harvey Mudd and Notre Dame. Just looking at the top 10 and their list of the best return in each state, most of these schools are quite expensive.

A question based on this report: if many colleges are getting increasingly expensive, particularly private schools and flagship public universities, and their pay-off is not as much as previously thought, will people stop attending them? Is taking on a decent amount of debt worth it for most schools? Elite schools provide extra wealth but the average student is far from this report’s top 10 schools. If more sources corroborate this sort of evidence, the college landscape might change dramatically.