"Ephemeralization" Follow-Up: Is the marginal benefit of college more than the cost?

Matthew Denhart and Christopher Matgouranis write on the August 19 blog of the Center for College Affordability and Productivity (CCAP):

The only way to judge the how worthwhile an investment, is to know the marginal benefits that result from it compared to its initial cost.

Based on these criteria, it is clear that the public is largely in the dark as to the value of a college degree. As we discuss in an article for Forbes.com today, colleges and universities rarely collect and publish information about the outcomes of their graduates. Perhaps this is an area where the U.S. Department of Education should step in and require alumni information be gathered and presented to the public in a clear and coherent manner. This would go lengths at providing the transparency and accountability in higher education that would benefit students and taxpayers at large.

The full text of their article can be found at Forbes.com.

In case you were wondering whether factoring value into reputational rankings of colleges and universities would change things, the answer is yes.  CCAP publishes an annual ranking of undergraduate colleges based on value.  The top of the list may not be a big surprise.  Williams College is the top ranked institution.  Princeton is second.  MIT and Stanford are in the top ten.  But so is Claremont McKenna College (9). Some Ivies don’t make the top fifty (Cornell is ranked number 70).  Georgia Tech ends up way down the list (242), a few positions ahead of Ohio State, but well out in front of the University of Arizona (339) and the University of Minnesota  (418).

Not surprisingly, the CCAP/Forbes rankings have generated heated — some might say enthusiastic — responses that either decry the irresponsibility of Forbes editors for publishing an obviously flawed ranking or agree  “it’s about time..” that Middlebury (26), Bowdoin (40), and the U.S. Naval Academy (29) get the recognition they deserve.  Research institutions — particularly those with high per-student expenditures — populate the bottom of the list in alarming numbers.  On  the other hand, student and alumni approval improves a school’s rank.

One reading of the CCAP article is that ephemeralization is overdue since American higher education seems incapable of doing more with more. I’ll let you take a look at the rankings and come to your own conclusions.


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