Reports Aim For Figure On Colleges’ Value

Ann McClure's picture

How much is a college worth?

Phrased another way, for every dollar society puts into a school — either through direct government funding or by granting tax-exempt status — how much public benefit is realized?

It is a deceptively simple question that has defied an easy answer. But as tuitions rise and the economy drags, there is a newly keen desire, especially in a college town like Boston, to measure higher education’s overall return on investment.

Two new reports give the task a try. The first looks at the input side of the equation, using Northeastern University as a case study. It shows that in fiscal year 2011 the school received at least $181.7 million in public support. Northeastern has said it provides at least twice that in community benefits each year.

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