Big college questions

Three provocative pieces about the value of college have come to my attention in the past 24 hours, so I thought I’d pass them along en masse.

First, a very short one from Seth Godin.

Second, a longer one from Sarah Lacy on TechCrunch.

Third, an older one on NPR.

All three are asking the question that many are scared to ask: “Is college worth what it’s costing?”  There are lots of ways to answer the question, and lots of different kinds of value involved.  This series of questions might help individual families assess:

“What can it do for [a particular young person]?”

“What will it cost (in funds and other ways)?”

“Given that benefit and that cost, does it seem worth it?”

There isn’t one answer, of course, and there’s nothing new about this way of considering a decision.  But something about the question of college has moved us away from this kind of analysis, even those of us who weigh options this way in other areas of life.  If you’re to find an answer that fits a particular young person and situation, you have to let go of the assumption that college will be worth what it costs.  Many assume it will because everyone has been saying it is for so long, or because it was when they went, or because they didn’t get to go and that was costly.  A lot of what you’ll read in these three pieces suggests that we’re trusting college to be things it once was but may no longer be, and we’d be wise to be sure we know what we’re investing in and what it can actually provide before we lay everything on the line for it.