In spite of ever rising tuition and ballooning student loan debts, a large majority of students still desire to attend college. Traditional notions are deeply engrained in the public's mind. College is considered the path to a better, higher paying job, the best way to make connections and propel a career, and a status symbol, especially for those who go to elite universities.
However, given the dismal reality facing college graduates, perhaps the future of higher education will have to change.
In some cases, a college diploma may no longer guarantee the high potential lifetime earnings it once did. An online salary ranking system called PayScale.com calculates a student's 30-year return on investment at the top 1,300 colleges nationwide based on average alumni salary and tuition costs. Their recently issued 2012 report suggests that out of the 4,500 colleges and universities in the nation only the top 800 to 850 give you an annual return on investment greater than 4%. In pure financial terms, students might be better off investing their tuition money in stocks rather than four years with one of our nation's many colleges.
But this does not stop an overwhelming number of students from paying an exorbitant amount of money or taking on huge amounts of debt in order to attend college. It seems like such conventional wisdom. "A diploma wasn't a piece of paper. It was an amulet," as columnist Frank Bruni wrote in the New York Times. That may no longer be the case.