College as Investment

College is a really good investment. This is according to a piece by Francesco Cesareo in Massachusetts’s Worcester Telegram & Gazette:

A slowly recovering economy, a challenging job market and a strong media focus on student loan repayment and default rates have some parents and student borrowers asking, “Was it worth it?”

I offer a resounding “Yes!” to the question “Was it worth it?”, but only if students and their parents make informed decisions, carefully consider affordability issues and have frank conversations with financial aid advisers as they explore college options. Still, choosing to go to college is not just a financial decision. The return on investment is not simply monetary, given the life-changing implications of a high-caliber college education.

Cesareo is the president of Assumption College, a Catholic college in Worcester that costs $40,241 a year.

He’s got a good point, however. As he explains, “the decision to go to college is an investment in the life graduates will lead, not the loans they will repay.” Well yes, but actually it’s an investment in both of those things.

But a good investment for whom? Because if college is a good investment for high school students, it stands to reason that it’s also a good investment for, say, the state of Massachusetts.

Over the last five years, Massachusetts has cut public higher-education funding by more than 13 percent per student. So that means more and more of that “good investment” has to be made by the students themselves. It’s probably better to make that investment than to eschew college and try to get a job after high school, but come on.

This sort of metaphorical investment doesn’t work like a real investment. College graduates don’t make more money because their colleges charge them more.

With the cost of college rising, college education advocates often encourage aspiring college students to ask obvious answer questions like “is it worth it to pay for college?” The real question should be something more like “who should pay for college?”

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