Friday, July 1, 2016

College Math

Everyone knows that the most prestigious colleges in the United States offer a better education than Everyday U down the highway.

And everybody knows that a good four-year bachelor's degree, even if it's from Everyday U helps its holder wield more earning power than a two-year associate's degree. Once again, what everybody knows turns out to be not exactly correct in some instances.

Over at The Pope Center, writer Stephanie Keaveney discusses a measure before the North Carolina legislature that would require public universities to offer statistics on how much their graduates earn following matriculation. Keaveney links the bill to similar efforts in Colorado, Minnesota, Tennessee and Texas.

A few paragraphs down in the story, she crunches some numbers and learns something interesting. She compares wages between two groups of people who hold Radiation Therapy Technology degrees -- those who hold 2-year associate's degrees and those who hold 4-year bachelor's degrees. On average, someone who picked up their associate's degree in RTP in 2008 was earning $53,802 five years after walking across the stage. A person with an RTP bachelor's degree, on the other hand, was earning on average $52,667.

That's only a 2.5% or so difference, of course, but those with the associate's degrees reached that mark sooner -- at least two years sooner, depending on how long the bachelor's degree actually takes. And they will have spent significantly less on their degree than their counterparts. Should their long-range plans require the more advanced degree, they can work towards it while earning their slightly larger salary and borrowing quite a bit less than their colleagues with the four-year degreee.

And for those who promote as much college as possible as the only path to success in life, the size of the gap is mostly irrelevant -- that it exists at all is cause for embarrassment. So look to see these kinds of transparency measures called out for being misleading or inaccurate or something similar when they start cropping up on the radar. Outside of STEM programs or the classical liberal arts studies at smaller schools, there's not a lot of actual edumacatin' that goes on in the modern university. If people start finding out that their costly bauble is less of an investment value than the less-costly bauble from the discount shop next door, then there may be some university administrators scrambling around to justify their existence. Or at least their employment.

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