Why Framing College as a Return on an Investment is Often “Wrongheaded”

Gene Block, the chancellor of UCLA, criticizes Barack Obama’s “College Scorecard” and Marco Rubio and Ron Weyden’s Students Right to Know Before You Go Act.  While post-college salaries are important, they do not account for college graduates who want to use their lives to serve society, regardless of salary.

A taste:

Last year, 3.1 million college students performed 118 million hours of service across the United States — a contribution valued at $2.5 billion. Here in Los Angeles, students from English classes helped high schoolers with college essays; German classes interviewed Holocaust victims for oral history projects; environmental engineering classes taught K-12 kids about climate change and water quality.

That service ideal stays with them after graduation. Each year, thousands of students will find jobs in nonprofits that assist people throughout the nation and the world. And they choose to do it — based on the critical thinking skills they developed at our campus. It’s true they will bring down the average salary of recent college graduates, but their dedication and sacrifice will also inspire many more.

Calculating the value of higher education will inevitably exclude factors critical to society. We should not let what’s measurable determine what is meaningful.

We need the next generation to ask questions grander than “How much money will I make?” That’s an important question, but it cannot be the only one.

They, and we, deserve better. “What barrier will I break?” or “How can I change the world?” These are the questions we must inspire every student to ask.

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