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article imageOp-Ed: Why 'is college worth it?' is the wrong question to ask

By Calvin Wolf     Nov 20, 2014 in Politics
Now that we're done with the 2014 midterms and are looking on to the 2016 presidential election, we see a new news blitz about the cost of college education, led by CNN asking "is college worth it?" Unfortunately, it's the wrong question to ask.
With the 2014 midterm elections over, the 2016 presidential election cycle has begun in earnest, with Republican powerhouse Jeb Bush giving a potential stump speech over education policy, reports NationalJournal. Across the nation, politicos and parents are staunchly divided over the Common Core unified curricula, with some liberals and some conservatives both in favor of, and opposed to, the idea of top-down education policy.
Simultaneously, we are once again subject to a renewed media blitz about the cost of higher education, with CNN asking "is college worth the cost?" with its special Ivory Tower broadcast tonight at 9 p.m., eastern time. While CNN is on a tear about college costs again, a quick Google search of "college cost news" reveals that they are far from the only media giant examining the subject yet again. Americans are outraged about the cost of higher education, and rightfully so.
But "is college worth it?" is the wrong question to ask.
"Is college worth it?" is a loaded question. Obviously, having a college degree is better than not having a college degrees. Yes, most college graduates will make more money, over their lifetime, than their college education costs. For the vast majority of successful higher education consumers, meaning those who achieve their degrees, college is definitely "worth it" in the long run. These are the conclusions we repeatedly hear parroted to us whenever anyone has the gall to question college expenses.
Instead, we need to be asking "why does college cost so much?" and "how can we reduce higher education costs?"
"Is college worth it?" assumes that the status quo is acceptable as long as higher education costs are less than or equal to the additional lifetime income a college degree, on average, bestows. Of course, there are a myriad of questions regarding the accuracy of measuring the lifetime future income of high school graduates versus college graduates. With what accuracy can academics and researchers predict the lifetime future income of today's 18-to-25-year-olds? These academics and researchers often lament the rising cost of college, but then assure us that we should accept this trend because, ultimately, we are likely to make a profit.
"Why does college cost so much?" forces us to consider not accepting the status quo. If we want change, we must not begin with a loaded question. We must begin with a question that forces us to explore beyond convenient numbers. We must investigate and seek out inefficiencies and problems. By doing so, we can seek to correct them.
"How can we reduce higher education costs?" strikes at the heart of the matter. We assume that there is a problem with the status quo, and we now seek to fix it. We begin scrutinizing, testing, and planning. We expect change, and so create it.
CNN and the other media moguls should be asking these questions, which are ultimately more interesting and more meaningful. CNN, if you ever want to ask these heavy-hitting questions, give me a call. As a high school Economics teacher, I can talk your ear off!
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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