Is your higher ed institution providing students the best ROI?
There is no disputing that a college education has value. Those who earn a four-year college degree are half as likely to be unemployed and earn about $32,000 more each year than those who only have a high school diploma. However, as the cost of higher education has risen and student debt has exploded, America is amid a heated debate over how to reduce the financial burdens, and the type of college education that is worth the investment.
While there are many different ways to evaluate the value of a college degree, a new report, “A First Try at ROI” by the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, ranks 4,500 U.S. colleges and universities according to their return on investment based on the graduates’ long-term earnings over a 40-year horizon. What’s interesting about these findings is that many unexpected schools rank above historically recognized prestigious institutions. For instance, a number of schools of pharmacy, as well as marine and maritime academies, have a high ROI, along with several institutes of technology. The trait shared by 80% of the top 20 schools is the nature of the education they provide.
The takeaway from this report is that if students are seeking to earn a higher average income over the course of their careers, they could do well to explore either a specific discipline or a more technology-oriented education. As the president of Stevens Institute of Technology in New Jersey, I am extremely proud that we ranked 15th in the nation for ROI over that 40-year timespan.
Earning power should be an important factor for students weighing their choice of school and career, if they are considering the cost of higher education and the debt they may acquire to attend colleges and universities. But it may not be the only factor for students and their families.
There are many students interested in pursuing careers in public service, the arts and education—work that is traditionally not as highly compensated. There are also millions of students whose interests and aptitudes align with a career in music, literature and political science. How do we ensure that all students, regardless of their discipline, get a good return on their college investment?
How do we ensure that all students, regardless of their discipline, get a good return on their college investment?
The new ‘well-rounded’ education
I would argue that the critical responsibility of any institute of higher learning, whether a specialized or liberal arts school, is to appreciate a new understanding of a well-rounded education. With an increasing demand for technology skills across all disciplines, it is necessary for colleges to equip students with the technical and problem-solving skills that are highly valued by employers and will become increasingly so in the years to come.
That is why technology is infused into every course of study at Stevens, and all students, including those studying business, the arts and humanities, learn how to computer code. Few music majors across the country go on to become rock stars or land jobs with symphony orchestras, but having a degree in music and technology, which is offered at Stevens, can open many opportunities when pursuing a career in the music and entertainment industry. The program allows students to explore their musical creativity while providing the computational and technology skills that prepare them for the quickly changing demands of the industry. It offers courses such as software instrument design, electroacoustic composition and audio postproduction.
While fine arts students can pursue their love of drawing and sculpture, those traditional studio experiences are merged with cutting-edge technology courses that teach video editing, 3D modeling, virtual reality, and electronic animation and game creation.
Students follow their passions and major in fields that excite them and draw on their talents. However, it’s imperative that colleges prepare their graduates for careers in an increasingly technology-driven world.
Those are the schools that will continue to provide a significant ROI.
Nariman Farvardin is president of Stevens Institute of Technology in New Jersey.