Guest Post at Washington Times Communities By Andrea Jarrell: What Makes Hefty Tuitions Worth It? ROI Is Not Materialism

In my blog at the Washington Times Communities, Public Square Today, I am running a guest post by Andrea Jarrell, a higher education consultant who blogs at School of Thought. I thought her take on “ROI” as it relates to higher education was a must-read:

What Makes Hefty Tuitions Worth It? ROI Is Not Materialism

$5700 by Flickr user AMagill
$5700 by Flickr user AMagill

(Guest Article by Andrea Jarrell)

The New York Times recently featured a story on making college “relevant.” The basic premise is that colleges have gotten wise to the fact that students and their parents see a connection between going to college and their ability to earn a living. (Imagine that!) A connection that has been both obvious and debated for decades.

The difference between this piece and so many others I’ve read is that it does not include an impassioned faculty member arguing that the only “correct” reason for attending college is to be an educated human as opposed to the crassness of getting a job. Rather the premise of the piece is that colleges and universities have decided if you can’t beat ‘em join ‘em, axing philosophy departments in favor of “anything prefixed with ‘bio’” because students have “wealth as a goal” as opposed to “developing a meaningful philosophy of life.”

“The shift in attitudes,” the article’s author writes, “is reflected in a shifting curriculum.” One could easily get the idea that more mercenary students are pushing cash-strapped institutions to change their curricula. But the article leaves out some very important context.

The source cited for more money-conscious students is UCLA’s national survey of college freshman, the largest and longest-running survey of American college students. (It started in 1966.) The same survey also found that the most important belief among entering freshman is in raising a family and that “the importance of helping others” is the highest it has been in 20 years.

As John H. Pryor, director of UCLA’s Cooperative Institutional Research Program’s which conducts the survey has said, “It would be simplistic to view today’s college students as materialistic because they feel it is important to be well off financially. In fact, students are also very interested in raising families and helping others, both of which are accomplished with greater ease if one is well-off financially.”

Another point of context is that the survey has also revealed that more students report they will get a job in order to cover college expenses than at any time during the 32 years this question has been asked. In addition they are more likely to use their own money to help pay for college than in years past and they are less likely to matriculate at their first choice college because of financial considerations.

With money and earning ability front and center leading up to and during a student’s college years, it’s no surprise that, as the article states, “Even before they arrive on campus, students — and their parents — are increasingly focused on what comes after college. What’s the return on investment, especially as the cost of that investment keeps rising? How will that major translate into a job?” But this doesn’t mean that “jobs and making money have replaced learning” as one sarcastic Twitterer commented about the article.

As a writer and communications consultant to colleges and universities, my job is to answer the question, “What makes hefty tuitions worth it?” I got into this business because I am a true believer in the power of education (from studying philosophy to bio) to change lives for the better. When students invest as much as $200,000 for that education, by necessity a better life better include being better off.

Great piece, huh?

Andrea Jarrell is a higher education brand strategist who blogs at School Of Thought. Her work marries an institution’s distinctive story and marketing communications strategy. An independent consultant since 1997, Jarrell works with independent schools, colleges and universities on overall institutional messaging and student recruitment and capital campaign communications.

The Morality-Free Zone: Wall Street and the New American Dilemma

Guest article by my friend Allison Addicott:

In The Beginning

Remember films such as Robin Hood or others that depict tax collectors for the landed gentry repeatedly riding into small villages demanding more money? In such films, often the final manifestation of unabashed moral corruption on the part of the landed oligarchy was the torching of dozens of little homes as flocks of extras flee, wailing into the night.

A while back, in mid-September 2008, many in the media observed the slow collapse of the financial networks in terms of “shoe-dropping.” “When will the other shoe drop?” At that point, being overly reactionary to the circumstances rising up around our ankles seemed to be ill-conceived. Now, with so many institutions in the midst of being propped up, set to receive another round of money, the tax payer still does not know, really, what happened to the first round. Other folks who have traditionally received government funds, like non-profits, can testify that government money usually comes with reporting so complicated that it requires a staff just to manage and track the data the receipt of funds requires.

Alchemy - The Promised Cotton Candy by Flickr user sflovestory
"Alchemy - The Promised Cotton Candy" by Flickr user sflovestory

In this story, the American taxpayer is asked to observe a kind of moral largesse, a selfless humility these past few months. The taxpayer says nothing as his or her hard-earned money is handed out like giant pink puffs of cotton candy to an industry with a 24/7 sweet tooth. Most Americans want to do what is best, to work together, and want to help this new administration, under the direction of President Barack Obama, succeed. The taxpayer has by and large managed this feat even while trying to dog-paddle in the thrashing seas of bad news about the stormy economy. Is this picture changing, though? The high-drama tea bagging by conservatives aside, will centrist and democratic taxpayers continue this stiff-upper lipped silence? Or, are Americans, beginning to find their voice about morality, ethics, and the world of finance? Continue reading The Morality-Free Zone: Wall Street and the New American Dilemma