Earlier this month, after announcing his plan to make community college free, President Obama lauded a college degree as “the surest ticket to the middle class.”
New research in the prolific field of “Is College Worth It?” suggests it’s not that simple.
“‘Ticket’ implies a college degree is something you can just cash in,” said Alan Benson, assistant business professor at the University of Minnesota. “But it doesn’t work that way. A college degree is more of a stepping stone, one ingredient to consider when you’re cooking up your career. … It’s not always the best investment for everyone.”
Benson, along with M.I.T.’s Frank Levy and business analyst Raimundo Esteva, co-authored a new paper, released this week, examining the value of public university options in California. Factors like how long it takes to complete a degree — often longer than four years — and whether students make it to graduation, he learned, can significantly diminish the value of pursuing higher education.