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By Andrew Hacker
Cost of Top Colleges Has Outpaced the Value, Tuition at top liberal arts colleges doesn't match the return
Let me be clear at the start: I strongly support a four-year liberal arts education. If I had my way, all of our 16 million undergraduates would major in fields like philosophy, history, and the sciences, rather than vocational programs. Pondering enduring ideas is a far better use of precious college years than fashion merchandising or sports management.
But $200,000 over a four-year span? That's what tuition, fees, room, and board are costing at colleges like Kenyon ($50,400),
Almost all college teams run a deficit. Even at the high-powered
And in academics, it's no longer threadbare
Liberal arts colleges like to boast of their low student-faculty ratios. But watch out. Their professors may be taking leaves--which are largely paid under "tuition"--and so won't be teaching your offspring. At one school my coauthor and I visited while researching our book on the cost of college, fully 40 percent of one department's faculty were away. Nor is it clear that doing research improves teaching. Much of it is now so esoteric that it can only be deciphered by other professors.
Note the near-identical figures for Kenyon,
Let's return to the four-year payout. Sadly, few parents are putting much, if anything, into college savings. So the checks are more often being written by students themselves, who are taking out larger and larger loans. Is a $200,000 degree worth it? Not if a generation of Americans will be commencing their adult lives with huge debts, plus very real prospects of default.
Are we talking about a good education or a brand-name degree? There are several hundred private liberal arts programs, either in universities or at freestanding schools. Yet many without widely-known names are charging close to $50,000, even though there's no assurance their degrees will open doors. For our book, we tracked graduates of a top college, and found most had quite average lives. On the other hand, corporate CEOs are more likely to have attended regional schools, like
In visiting campuses, we found schools where you can get a fine liberal arts education at a relatively modest price. Public universities like
Opportunities like these exist in almost every state. Take a look.
A $200,000 degree isn't worth it if a generation commences its adult life with huge debts.
Andrew Hacker teaches political science at
The cost of a liberal arts education keeps rising, with the price tag at some schools now exceeding $50,000 per year. Backers say the sticker price is deceptive and that the education is worth the cost. Critics say students could spend their dollars more wisely. Is a liberal arts education worth that price?
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Smart Money Looks Elsewhere: Liberal Arts Education