Michigan doesn’t need its own college ROI calculator – Mackinac Center

State governments are taking what seems like a practical step toward understanding the real value of a college education: websites that claim to quantify the value of a degree in dollars and cents. But Michigan shouldn’t feel the need to follow suit.

Higher education is in a strange situation right now. The dizzying shifts to virtual education in 2020, combined with rules on quarantine, social distancing, testing, vaccinations, and masking, have shifted the focus of higher education. Even as pandemic responses have made the college experience less engaging, policymakers have bolstered incentives for young people to attend college with new programs, additional federal government funding, and an ongoing moratorium on tuition refunds. student loans required. The result is a confusing set of contradictions.

Fewer Michigan high school graduates are interested in attending college than before COVID-19, despite prompting from state and state authorities. Recruiting agents are going through a particularly tough time due to a long-term trend of rising college costs and soaring inflation over the past year.

In response, school and state officials developed payback calculators to encourage more students to attend. Many states have launched websites that compare the salaries expected of new college graduates at different institutions or majors.

Florida recently unveiled a website to help prospective students and parents compare salaries, job prospects, and average loan burdens at Florida’s twelve public four-year institutions, broken down by field of study.

A variety of government, institutional, financial and informational websites offer similar tools.

Choosing where and when to go to college, what to study, and how much debt to take on is important for future success. But there are other factors to consider.

A degree does not come with a salary guarantee. Many college graduates end up working outside their field. It’s no surprise: what you thought you were doing at 18 or 22 does not predict what you will do at 40 or 44.

Also, the well-paying jobs of today may not exist in the future. And the well-paying jobs of the future might not exist today.

Tools are not entirely worthless. Prospective students may want to see how well off the graduates are and compare the salaries earned by graduates of different degree programs at different schools. College ROI calculators can help students make more informed decisions about their future college loan repayment prospects.

Should Michigan follow Florida’s lead by creating another college ROI calculator, specific to Michigan’s public universities?

Probably not. Lawmakers can insist that colleges not mislead students, and high school guidance counselors can incorporate existing calculators into their counseling process. But Michigan doesn’t need its own calculator. They are already widely available.

Instead of encouraging students to focus on simplistic returns to degrees, legislators should encourage schools to cut costs. The price of post-secondary education is going in the wrong direction, and rising government spending tends to exacerbate the problem. An overpriced investment naturally leads to lower returns for anyone, regardless of the college or major chosen.

Flooding the decision-making process with more calculators will not increase student ROI. Find ways to reduce the cost of a college education.


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