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Newsweek Article Review: ''Is College a Lousy Investment?''

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September 12, 2012

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Newsweek Article Review: ''Is College a Lousy Investment?''

The cover story for Newsweek this week, “Is College a Lousy Investment?”, dives into the question of whether or not the return on investment for a four-year college degree still merits making the investment. The article details some of the causes of the rapid rise in college costs and with it, the increase in student loans taken out by students at public, private and for-profit colleges. The story has already garnered a lot of online responses and reflects a policy debate which is picking up steam in state legislatures and in Washington linked to college and career readiness.

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Steve - CTEPW

Both the Obama and Romney campaigns have included college affordability plans as part of their respective campaigns. Several bills were introduced in the 112th Congress focused on college affordability, and the Department of Education has posted an online College Affordability and Transparency Center which provides a calculator for selected institutions. All signs indicate that there is growing interest in the topic as evidenced when Newsweek made this its cover story.

While many experts tend to agree that for the average student, college is still worth it, they also agree the rapid increase in price is quickly reducing the potential return on investment, particularly in some career areas. The Newsweek article includes the following statement which questions the value of a four-year college degree.

“Promotional literature for colleges and student loans often speaks of debt as an “investment in yourself.” But an investment is supposed to generate income to pay off the loans. More than half of all recent graduates are unemployed or in jobs that do not require a degree, and the amount of student-loan debt carried by households has more than quintupled since 1999.”

The article notes in closing the suggestion of one economist, James Heckman, on how America might reconsider investing in higher education by engaging students in the educational effort through utilizing apprenticeship-style programs. In this learning environment, students learn in the workplace, not just specific skills for the profession, but the “soft skills” necessary for career success. “It’s about having mentors and having workplace-based education,” Heckman states in the article. “Time and again I’ve seen examples of this kind of program working.”

The fact that the Newsweek article and others like it are referencing the value of credentials, work-based learning and “soft,” or employability, skills is a good sign that career-readiness issues are garnering more attention. It reflects the career ready education proposed by ACTE in our “What is Career Ready?” definition ACTE produced in 2009.

The debate about college affordability is an opportunity to discuss the value of CTE and how it can positively impact all students.

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