Students must be helped to make informed choices
Monday, November 18, 2013 10:00 AM
State officials wanted to make one thing clear following a report issued last week by the Indiana Commission for Higher Education: A college degree is valuable, more valuable than ever.
However, the "Return on Investment" report brought into question whether some degrees are more valuable than others.
According to the report, Indiana students who earned an associate degree at a two-year college are averaging higher salaries - and lower debt loads - than their peers with degrees from four-year public universities. The discrepancy changes over time - as graduates with entry-level positions transition to loftier roles - but more so for some degrees than others.
For example, a Purdue engineering student will make about $28,000 more than a history major within five years of leaving school. More telling, perhaps, is the fact that history majors are more likely to be working in the restaurant industry than their field of study. Indiana has set a goal of increasing the number of college graduates in the state. Only 33 percent of the state's working adults hold a degree. Officials aim to increase it to 60 percent in the next 12 years. But as the report asserts, it's important to provide guidance to students and their families about which careers hold economic promise and which lines of study may leave them with a load of debt and few job prospects. Equipping prospective students with data on possible outcomes of their school choice, course of study and the debt they may incur is paramount.
That's not to say we should dissuade our young adults from their passions. Without artists, actors, historians or writers, the world would be a pretty dull and uninspiring place.
However, smart and educated choices can ensure this generation, which some have dubbed "Generation Wait," will not be left toiling in low-wage jobs, struggling with a mountain of debt and waiting for real life to begin.