The “Worth” Part of “Worth It”

Earlier this week I, like others, criticized the American Council on Education’s recent report on the value of college. The report, which surveyed college graduates and then indicated overwhelming support for the value of college, seemed troublesome to me because a lot of the graduates were actually middle aged and the study didn’t try to tackle the issue of debt.

Yesterday Education Sector’s Erin Dillon took a look at the second part, studying how students who assumed debt to go to college feel about that debt. Another report is helpful. As Dillon writes:

The recently released six-year follow-up of the Beginning Postsecondary Students study sheds some light on those questions. As part of the study, researchers asked students who borrowed for their education, both graduates and non-graduates, whether their student loan debt was a worthwhile investment. …The BPS survey still gets at the same important question as the ACE survey: is college worth the investment? The BPS data also adds some more information on two additional, but equally important, questions: for whom and at what price.

The ACE study, in contrast, looked rather more ambiguously at whether or not people thought going to college was a good choice they made.

It turns out the BPS study yields pretty similar results, however. The vast majority of students still paying off student loans (more than 80 percent) believe that their specific loan debts were “a worthwhile investment.”

The more debt students have, admittedly, the less likely they are to believe that. But even among graduates “whose monthly loan payments are in the highest quartile among their peers,” according to Dillon, they’re still pretty satisfied with their investments. Some 81 percent think that their education loans were worth it. As far as students with lower debt are concerned, about 85 percent of them think the education benefits were worth the costs.

Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer