Is College Right for You?

In a continuing series on why I love being an economist, here’s a piece from The New Yorker on the costs and benefits of college education.  In it, the author discusses the job prospects and salaries of various disciplines, including our own:

Economics majors aren’t doing badly, either: their starting salary averages about fifty thousand a year, rising to a mid-career median of a hundred and one thousand. Special note should be taken of the fact that if you have an economics degree you can, eventually, make a living proposing that other people shouldn’t bother going to college.

Well, of course we do that. Maybe college isn’t right for everyone.  In our burgeoning post-industrial, service economy, some jobs might require at least some college (“consultant,” CSI analyst, attorney, surgeon, computer game developer), others might not (burger flipper, garden hand, dog walker, Wal Mart greeter, professional athlete), and others might require non-traditional schooling (massage therapist, engine diagnostic tester, fire watcher, marauder).

Here at Lawrence, however, we believe that college is right for people who share our mission — “commitment to the development of intellect and talent, the pursuit of knowledge and understanding, the cultivation of sound judgment, and respect for the perspectives of others.” Not exactly a vocational bent, that’s the point.

But for assessment purposes, many view college as a training ground for future professionals.  Thus the question, should we evaluate the efficacy of college on the basis of the integrity of its graduates, or on whether graduates get jobs, whether they like their jobs, and how much money they make? Given that whether someone has a job or not tends to be easier to measure than the (change in) integrity of a person over the course of their college life, whether college is “worth it” or not is often framed as whether the monetary benefits outweigh the costs.

Well, anyway, hope the Lawrence Experience is right for you.