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This June 19 Bridge Magazine article examines a controversial study by PayScale.com, a consulting firm specializing in nationwide employee compensation issues. Their survey ranked the return on investment over a 30-year period of 853 universities with at least 1,000 undergraduates and found that college may — or may not — be a good use of money.
Of the 13 Michigan public universities reviewed by PayScale, four — Central Michigan University, Grand Valley State University, Lake Superior State University and Northern Michigan University – were deemed to have a negative “return on investment” in comparing the costs of obtaining a degree vs. the future earnings, based on in-state tuition, and without accounting for financial aid programs. Two private Michigan schools — Alma College and Spring Arbor University — had the worst ROI among all Michigan schools reviewed.
Michigan schools that come in with a negative return on investment argue, however, that PayScale.com's effort to quantify college learning is just bad math.
The article also uncovers one fact that’s hard to ignore: Tuition has skyrocketed in the past decade, and now 30 percent of adults have degrees (compared to 10 percent in 1970). That means fewer college graduates will find the traditional high-paying jobs that once went to those with degrees.
In fact, according to the Christian Science Monitor, 80,000 bartenders and 317,000 waiters and waitresses in the United States have college degrees, as do nearly a quarter of all retail salespersons. In all, 17 million Americans with college degrees are working at jobs that don’t require them.
Read a related interview with Richard Vedder, who studies the economics of higher education. Vedder predicts that a decade from now, Michigan will have fewer public universities than today.