The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

Opinion

January 9, 2014

Colleges, students to learn value of higher education

Higher education is one of the more expensive investments many people will ever make. The average cost of a year in college, including tuition, fees, room and board, now runs about $23,000 — enough to buy a new car. Graduates typically leave with $30,000 each in student loan debt.

But cost is just one thing that deserves to be considered when young people decide whether and where to go. Another is what they get for their money. That’s harder to measure, and it’s not something that can be reduced to a dollar figure.

A school that offers mediocre instruction or demands too little of students may leave them poorly equipped for the real world even though they have diplomas. Most people hope a college education will help them get a good job. But universities have a broader and deeper mission than that. Reading Shakespeare is valuable even if it doesn’t strengthen your resume.

Fortunately, someone has decided to try to figure out what people get out of college, in both tangible and intangible ways. The Gallup polling organization and Purdue University have unveiled a project to survey college grads to find out how they’re doing.

Gallup Chairman Jim Clifton and Purdue President Mitch Daniels write in The Wall Street Journal that the survey will ask college graduates questions like: “Are you employed? How much do you earn? It will also measure those critical qualities that Gallup finds employers truly value and are predictive of work success: a person’s workplace engagement and well-being.”

It will also inquire about community involvement, personal relationships and physical well-being. Purdue will commission a separate survey of its own alumni to see how they are doing and how they compare with other college graduates. The first results, based on a sampling of 30,000 people, should be out in the spring.

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