College Investment, College Affordability and College Debt


Is college worth the time and financial investment? Many students and parents would answer no to that question. The underemployment and unemployment rates in the United States and around the world, suggest that for many, college is simply not worth it. In a poll taken in 2012, only 57% of adults believe that a college education is worth the investment and 80% believe that colleges and universities are not doing enough to prepare students for the world of work in a global marketplace. Affordability and Return on Investment (jobs) are the driving forces in college admission today.

In a recent report, published by College Summit, a nonprofit group that promotes broader college access, the authors argue that the demand for college graduates will only increase in the future and college graduates can expect to earn, over the course of their working lives, 80% more than high school graduates.

There is a striking disconnect between research indicating that more than two million jobs each year cannot be filled with American college graduates and the 2010 college unemployment rate of 9.1%.  According to the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, the United States will need 22 million new college graduates by 2018 and research predicts a shortfall of that number by three million.

In the past, the higher education establishment has let raking systems define a school’s quality. That outside criteria is changing.  Assessment of the college experience, focusing on outcomes, is slowing replacing incoming statistics as a measure of a successful college or university. And how does the college experience contribute to the graduate’s success? These are some of the questions that students and parents are asking.


On average, annual costs at four-year U.S. colleges have risen by nearly five times the rate of inflation since 1983. The cost of a college education has increased by 70% in the past ten years; 68% at public schools and 39% at private colleges and universities. Average tuition in a public, four-year school in 2012-13 was $7,519 for in-state students and $17,040 for out-of-state students. Students who attended a private college paid $24,256.


  • Since 1999 student loan debt in the U.S. has increased by 511% and now exceeds $1 trillion. The latest figure for average student debt is $29,400.
  • In 2011 the default rate on student loans was 10.0%. Five years earlier, the rate was 5.2%.
  • From 2001 and 2011, the cost of a university education in the U.S. increased from 23% of median parental income to 38%. Parents’income and savings cover less than one-third of all college costs. Because of the “Great Recession,” parents are neither able nor willing to refinance their homes or borrow from their retirement funds to pay for their child’s education.
  • 75% of Americans believe that a college education is unattainable. Twenty years ago that statistic was 60%.


  • Increasing tuition every year is an unsustainable business model.
  • Instead of indiscriminately cutting costs, college presidents and chief financial officers should focus on increasing revenue from new, non-traditional sources. Online courses, hybrid programs and creating a “third” semester in the summer, are some of the ways to increase revenue.
  • Bring the career counselor to the head of the table and include employability as a cornerstone of all admission marketing materials.



This entry was posted in Colleges, International Education, International students, Universities by Marguerite Dennis. Bookmark the permalink.

About Marguerite Dennis

Marguerite Dennis has been recruiting internationally for over 25 years, first at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. and then at Suffolk University in Boston, Massachusetts. During that time she was responsible for establishing a branch campus for Suffolk University in Dakar, Senegal and Madrid, Spain. Marguerite increased the international student population at Suffolk University by 193% from 1993 to 2011 and increased the number of study abroad programs by 135%, from 20 to 47. She monitored the recruitment programs for Suffolk University in 20 countries and hired a network of 10 international educational consultants. She signed agreements in Viet Nam, Hong Kong, Kuwait, Germany, Mexico, France and Argentina.

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