College-bound students put considerable thought into where they will go to school.  Decisions depend on myriad criteria; field of study, location, whether he/she can get accepted and, of course, the cost.

One common belief is that the higher the tuition, the better the education.  A new study suggests that the link between cost and benefit is not as strong as you might think.

Gallup teamed with Purdue University to survey more than 30,000 college graduates to determine the primary factors that contribute to a quality education that will lead to job satisfaction after graduation.  The poll found, perhaps surprisingly, that going to the “best” school, which is often the most expensive, did not necessarily translate into success.

“Where graduates went to college—public or private, large or small, very selective or not selective—hardly matters at all to their current well-being and their work lives in comparison to their experiences in college,” the report found.

Study authors concluded the secret to success is not where you go, it’s how you go to college. In all, the study authors determined six elements of the college experience that would lead to a satisfactory career, and the cost of school was not among them.  Instead, the criteria for success are based more on interaction with professors and whether or not students took advantage of campus opportunities.

For example, the study shows graduates who reported that they had a professor who took a personal interest in them and encouraged them to pursue their dreams were twice as likely to have a fulfilling career.  Also, students who participated in extracurricular activities, campus organizations and had internships were much more likely to be engaged at their current job than those who did not.

The study upends a lot of the traditional thinking on how higher education is delivered.  What’s more important to a student getting good education: having a professor who has published extensively in his or her field or a professor with superior teaching skills?  Can a student who takes full advantage of opportunities at a cheaper public institution have greater career satisfaction that a student who does the minimum at an Ivy League school?

“The answers to these questions are not simple enough to answer in one paragraph or report,” the study says.  “The answers lie in thinking about things that are more lasting than selectivity of an institution or any of the traditional measures of college.”

What students are doing in college and how they are experiencing it “have a profound relationship to a person’s life and career.”

America’s egalitarianism is challenged by the country’s higher education system, which awards some schools “elite” status. Those elites tend to be far more expensive than the rest.  For example, it costs about three times as much to go to the University of Pennsylvania than Penn State.

The average student now leaves college owing $29,000, and that debt is often higher for students who attend elite institutions.  That debt, the study found, has an impact on the well-being of graduates.

“The higher the loan amount, the worse the well-being,” the report says.  “Only four percent of graduates who owed between $20,000 and $40,000 are thriving in all areas,* compared with 14 percent who did not take out loans.”

Every year, hundreds of thousands of high school students are asked the same question: “Where are you going to college.”  We should instead be asking these students, “how are you planning to go to college?”


*The study’s criteria for well-being is broken down into five areas: Purpose (what they do every day), Social (stable, healthy personal life), Financial (not worried about money), Community (living in their desired location), Physical (feeling active and productive).

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  • mntnman

    Great issue to discuss. Two years after I graduated and was in my first job, no one ever asked where I went to school. Because no one cared. They wanted to know "what are you doing for me now/lately", not what I did in school or where I went to school. Production in my job is what mattered. Still does. So, where you go doesn't matter so much...

    Except on two fronts. One, connections. In some prestigious schools, or even less prestigious schools, you make connections that may/can impact where you work, where you live, who hires you. Even later in life. This falls in the category of "who you know matters".

    The second is a corollary of the first -- your first job may well depend on where you go to school. There are connections between some schools and some jobs. It may be alumni, or other connections, but for your first job, getting in the door may depend on where you go to school. Keeping the job -- performance matters.

    Last thing -- we need to rethink higher education at its most basic. I do not oppose the general idea of a liberal arts education (well roundedness matters). However, when the general studies hours exceeds the major hours, we have it backwards. IMHO at least 65% of all credit hours should be directed toward the major. Of the remaining 35%, they need to be relevant to the major.

    Example. My daughter is a rising senior at Concord University -- in primary education. There are 72 hours required in that program of study. But, of those 72 hours, only 45 are education specific. The rest are general studies course in science, history, social sciences. They are not courses designed to help an education major -- they are just general studies courses. Since she needs 120 hours to graduate, that means 75 of her 120 credit hours are UNRELATED to her field of choice. Not a very good use of college classroom time.

    Instead, she should have as a minimum 75 credit hours directly related to primary education -- any required courses in the social sciences, math or the hard sciences for her program of study should be designed to relate to her field of study -- Pre-K to 5 education. Higher education should be designed to offer the best possible training for the program of study -- we need less general studies and more specific studies. Its really hard to believe we continue to do this in this day and age -- but we do in all fields essentially.

    Again, I am all for broadening the mind. But given the cost of education today, we need to devote more time to the field of study, and less to mind broadening. 48 credit hours in general studies seems more than enough to broaden students minds -- we should be preparing them for their fields better. We do that by more class time in their field of study. We can do it, if only we choose to do it. Now I'm not holding my breathe -- I'm told the Concord Education Dept. has discussed this, only to be told no by some of the other professors.

  • Mason County Contrarian

    Lack of money may provide an excuse for some in not going to college, but it's a poor one. If you want to pursue a higher education there are ways to overcome the
    money obstacle--simply get a job. I worked my way through higher ed with part time work during the semester and full time in the summer. My degrees and chosen career now mean so much more knowing I worked my way through and I instill those same qualities in my son. Money is a problem but it can be overcome by our own sweat equity. It depends on whether one decides to live a life based on excuses.

    Higher education is expensive--ignorance has a far higher price.

  • DWM

    There is no worse a financial decision that parents and/or a student can make than taking out student loans to pay for college.

    If you are going to take out thousands of dollars in student loans it would almost be better not to go and if you do engage in student loans, you better have a degree that will land you a job immediately that will create a cash flow that will allow you to pay them off in a couple years.

    Choose an inexpensive school and get involved and engaged in the education process.

  • Wirerowe

    Hoppy just as economic pressure in health care has forced more doctors to work for hospitals and shared practices, economic pressure will bring about differences in the way higher education is managed. Shared governance will be under the gun. The best example is UVA where the faculty sided with the president, a tenured professor, against the board of supervisors. There will be increased friction between boards and the faculty and president will have to walk the fence trying to keep both parties happy during this transition,There will be a trend towards more bottom down business models with professors having less than equal roles in hiring of the presidents and in the governing of the school's operations. There will be more economic pressures to go to on line courses further threatening the faculty members comfort zones. While I believe that a liberal arts should be a major part of a college education, there will be an increased scrutiny of soft majors and of non academic advocacy majors such as black studies, Hispanic studies and Appalachian studies. The most sacred cow tenure will likely survive in some form but with economic pressures it will be seen as more of a luxury than a given. It could well be a traumatic time for higher education as these battles are waged.

  • WVU 74

    ding ..ding ..ding. We have a WINNER!

    Would like to add to your "Publish or Perish" comment. How many students actually believe the research performed in the papers they submit (for grade) won't be used for publication by their professors? It is done, and that is stealing. .

    This one-time student had a remedy in keeping my intellectual property from being used (stolen) for publication. Every project or term paper I submitted had a copyright. Publish any of my written work, we'll soon be meeting in Court.

    "Tenure", although you didn't address it (nor did Hoppy) is yet another ingrained problem. At a time long ago, Tenure was needed for certain protections of speech and ideology expressed in the classroom or forums. Today, I fail to see a compelling reason to grant a paid public employee a "guarantee for a life-time" job. Being tenured doesn't make anyone a better teacher. Get rid of it! Perhaps the constant rise in cost of a college education will slow some.

    • Jesse's girl

      I was fortunate in my graduate studies at UNC, Chapel Hill. My major professor, the late Dr. Albert E. Radford, did not share the publication w/ his students. He felt it was our work. We also did not do the work as a part of his grant. When Dr. Core published part of my master's thesis in Castanea, I told him that whatever Dr. Radford wanted was OK w/ me. Dr. Radford asked that it be listed as a thesis completed under his direction. That was done w/ an asterick at the end of my name and a footnote at the bottom of the page. Now for a WVU story in the 1980's. A masters student in a section of forestry was asked to come back and take over classes of her major professor for a semester while he worked on a project in CA. She had worshiped the ground upon which he trod. He gave her complete use of his office and files. One day when she was looking for something, she saw a folder w/ her name and thesis title on it. She was horrified to find that HE had published it and left her name off. Further, he had reported it to the granting institution as HIS work and again did not credit or acknowledge her.

  • Jesse's girl

    I agree with the basic premise of Hoppy’s Commentary. However, colleges and universities have several ingrained problems which need to be solved and soon. I do not see most of them serving the students, but rather the administrations and politicians. 1. “Publish or perish” is a particularly virulent “disease” in today’s institutions of “higher learning.” It is false to assume that a top researcher is also a good teacher. That is seldom the case. Also, a professor cannot be bothered mentoring an undergraduate under that system. 2. Academia is weighted down with expensive administrators–I refer to them as “Vice Presidents of Nothing in Particular” and “Deans of Nothing at All.” So the institution favors programs which bring in expensive grants in order to get the overhead for these slugs. 3. Academia has become the almost exclusive playground for the left. As a consequence there is no longer “academic freedom” and only one point of view is espoused on campus. Is it any wonder that there is a “consensus” of “scientists”? No one is hired who does not speak the party line; research is geared to “find” the “correct” outcome; agencies such as NSF will not fund research not geared to the “correct” outcome; and many so-called “juried journals” will not publish any papers which do not toe the party line. As someone said recently, “there is no longer any science.” Amen.

    • Hillboy

      I agree with you on #s 1 and 2. With regard to #3... my only exposure to higher education was at WVU, which arguably may not be representative. However, I had as many outspoken conservative instructors as I did outspoken liberal instructors. For the most part, with some exceptions, my instructors kept their politics out of their teaching.

      Having worked in science, including some research (sort of) related to climate change, I think you are wrong about the scientific community marching in lockstep to some leftist agenda. Scientists love to argue and find flaws in other peoples' research. No one writes a research proposal based on what the outcome is going to be---it would never get funded. If you think climate change is one big leftist conspiracy than the problem goes well beyond the US because research indicating a problem is coming from researchers in many countries.

      • WV Common Tater

        How did an article on Education get turned into a discussion on Global Warming? Beats me!

        • Hillboy

          Hoppy's topic gets hi-jacked on this MB quite frequently. Poor guy.

          • Hillboy

            I wasn't trying to be hard on him. I was sympathizing even though I was a prime offender this time.

          • Wirerowe

            Excellent point Hillboy. But Hoppy is our enabler so don't be too hard on him. He is also my friend.

      • The bookman

        I would agree to a point, Hillboy. My experience at WVU was primarily apolitical. The History Department, at least the few courses I took, were taught by mostly young TA's with an anti
        American, apologist bent. But I was permitted to voice my objections, and wasn't punished for doing so. There was open debate, just differences in opinion. Science and Math, which made up the lion's share of my courses, were about the subject matter, not political agendas. And I worked under Dr Jim Kotcon. It was always about the science and the integrity of the work, not politics or outcomes.

        I do believe climate scientists are diligently working on the issues surrounding climate change, but the nature of the topic leads to assumptions that the outcome has been predetermined. The media will always be drawn to lead with the apocalyptic story, and take a pass on the not so flashy science. We are 17 1/2 years into the pause in global temperature rise, and 30+ years into the divergence of the predicted models. Those questions are being researched, yet the drumbeat continues that the sky is falling and it is man's fault. When it is reported that the consensus in the scientific community is that any who questions man's role in climate change are deniers of science, what do you expect from intelligent people like Jesse's Girl? She knows the science behind the myth, and the agenda that drives it.

        It is a political argument that has hijacked science as its tool to enact an anti fossil fuel agenda.

        • Hillboy

          There are plenty of uncertainties Bookman. But there is no uncertainty about the role of greenhouse gases in increasing temperatures and that we (yes, humans) are adding billions of tons of GHGs to the atmosphere annually. The question is where does all that energy go? The pause is reflected only in mean global surface temperatures. The average temperature of the middle depths of the ocean (1500 to 3000 feet or so) continues to warm, as you know.

          Here's what I don't quite understand about your argument. If I understand you correctly, you attribute any warming that has occurred to variations in natural cycles, with no human influence. You also say or at least imply that the so-called pause invalidates the whole concept of human-caused climate change because the measured results do not match the model predictions. Why do you reject the possibility that natural cyclical variations do not influence the rate of surface warming? If natural cycles are powerful enough in your mind to be the sole reason for measured climate change couldn't they also be powerful enough to influence the rate of human-influenced climate change?

          If you look at the graph of mean surface temperatures over the years in does look like there is some cyclical variation. There were similar pauses in the past, with years of sharper increases in between.

          • Hillboy

            I was referring to some of the new information being revealed due to the rate of melting in Greenland. That resulted in some upward revisions.

          • Wirerowe

            Bookman don't confuse us with facts. We want science.

          • The bookman

            Hillboy ,

            I find sea level rise calculated to be 2.3mm/year, on a steady slope. That is approximately 10 inches/century. This calculation admits a margin of error of +/-1mm, or roughly half the value. There are also correction factors inserted into the calculation to take into account the water retention by dams and reservoirs. Is that on the order of the predictive value or too low?


            The above site serves as a platform for climate scientists to debunk myths put forward by deniers, but is a great source of reliable information. The comments are very technical and backed up with citations. Enjoy!

          • Hillboy

            The climate change models also were inaccurate predictors of the rise in sea level. They have generally under-predicted the rate of rise in sea level.

          • Hillboy

            I think we're covering ground that has already been covered. I will say again to both of you that I think you are expecting a degree of accuracy from the models that is unrealistic. Although scientists conjectured about the possibility of greenhouse gases affecting temperatures as early as the 1800s, the scientific study of the climate did not really take off to any extent until the 1960s or 70s. We are still learning about what factors influence the climate. Twenty years ago nobody knew much about how oscillating winds and currents in the Pacific affected surface temperatures. It is common for a model to not accurately predict observed events. That does not automatically mean it was a failure or evidence of a conspiracy. Often, it means only that some unknown variable was not accounted for.

          • Wirerowe

            Hillboy You have made the 15 year hiatus point before and clearly I draw the opposite conclusion. The fact that a
            Artists are in denial on this point shows me that there is a conspiracy. The underlying basis of global warming was that computer models 15 years ago predicted that increasing Co 2 levels would lead to increasing surface temperature. When scientific data in fact indicated that there was very little surface warming during that period, the debate suddenly swung to hiatus, pauses and climate change. That has all the trimmings of a conspiracy to me. The fact that the IPCC is stacked with global warming alarmists who shout down and ostracize anyone who questions the severity of the threat is much more significant to me than the fact that you say that Ronald Reagan created the group.Global warming and climate change have become pure and simple political animals and scientists can go along or they will get no grants, be shouted down or treated like red headed orphans.

          • The bookman


            The pause has been observed over the last 17 years, and it is because they hadn't predicted it that causes me and others to question the validity of the models. The conspiracy to hide that truth, or minimize the relevance of the pause, is the cause for concern. Look at the enormous damage they have inflicted on economies all over the world, over the theoretical change in climate that currently is not occurring. Small variations in temperature, yes. Climate Change, no. I believe they are rushing to enact as much change as possible so as to claim they have averted the catastrophe, because as time progresses, and the sky continues to maintain its place above us, their ability to convince us otherwise wanes.

          • Hillboy

            Wirerowe, if global warming is a conspiracy, why would the conspirators build in a 15 year pause in the data for surface warming? If you're going to fudge data to mislead the public that would hardly be the way to do it.

            You ask, "What kind of science is it where we base the science on collective bodies that for the most part are creations of partisan national or international governments?" I assume you are referring to the IPCC, which was formed due to the influence of Ronald Reagan, who did not like the message of the World Meteorological Organization. The IPCC was designed by conservatives, not liberals.

          • Wirerowe

            Hillboy you make a reasoned argument for the scientific process in the abstract. I would contend that the current scientific debate regarding global warming is more like the Spanish Inquisition and an orchestrated political process on timing and content that makes some of the scientists pawns at best and other willing co conspirators at worst. Where in the scientific process is there a place for unanimity , settled science, shameless advocacy for public policies,blackballing those scientists that question the severity of the threat and or censorthose scientists. What kind of science is it where we base the science on collective bodies that for the most part are creations of partisan national or international governments . Where specific conclusions have no one person's name on it with no individual citations. If this is science let me off the train. Science and global warming or climate change in the same sentence is a warning to the general public to bend over and get out your wallets. To the climate professors, activist groups.,Supporting politicans and the renewable energy guys it is party time and money time. When Governor Perry says he questions global warming. Reporters ask him to name 3 scientists he has read that lead him to this conclusion. Fair enough. Ask the same of the believers. When governor Brown of California in a blatant attempt at fear mongering says that global warming will lead to the flooding of LA airport which is 120 feet above sea level, none of the national media raise an eyebrow. You can go on and on about peer review but the national debate about climate change has nothing at all to do with science but everything to with elections legislation and President Obama's legacy.

          • The bookman

            +1000. As I stated on another thread, politics have soured the science. What we currently have are absurd reactions and recoils from opportunistic politicians, as opposed to a reasoned way forward.

          • Hillboy

            Well, I whole-heartedly agree that the approach we are taking to deal with GHGs and climate change is far from the best way. It is too bad this has become such a partisan issue that we can't put together some sort of a semi-coherent national energy policy.

          • The bookman


            I certainly believe that the natural processes that drive stability in our climate are at work buffering the injection of GHG's into Earth's atmosphere. I believe that atmospheric CO2 has increased during the industrial revolution period and that there may be a causal effect between that activity and global temperatures. But the depth of that effect is much overdone, and certainly not at the level to achieve a climate shift. I mean we're talking less than a degree C since 1880, with some projections yielding a paltry 0.3 degree C rise over the next century.

            The models used to predict the runaway temperature increases have not held up to observations.

            In an environment where the GHG emissions in this country have been reduced 9% over the last 24 years, without the extinguishing regulations of the EPA being in place on industry, how is there a justification for such regulation of GHG emissions as have been proposed on new power plants, and the coming restrictions on existing plants? I read a story this morning suggesting that the rules on existing plants may extend beyond the smokestacks of the plants all the way to the end user. The suggestion is reducing use by the consumer, rationing, as the reductions being sought are so large, power plants will not be able to comply, causing too steep a shortfall in available electricity to maintain the grid.

            I hike, a lot! I see the "Leave No Trace" signs at trail heads, and diligently practice that and teach it to my children. But we live in a world where that is not possible everywhere. We aren't a society of hunter/gatherers. We have chosen to move out of that standard and on to a society that enjoys the technological advances of modern civilization and an improved standard of living. We have to accept that our advancement comes at a price, and we should attempt to keep that price as low as possible while remaining in a position to further advance ourselves. I'm for efficiency, conservation, protection of the environment, and science as our guide. I'm also for an unbiased approach to solving our energy needs, and not for an alarmist approach to exacting the death knell to fossil fuel use, primarily coal, then NG, for our electrical generation needs. I am also for protecting our economic ability to compete by ensuring that this country does not unilaterally take on the responsibility of reducing GHG's to our detriment and to Russia and China's benefit. Give the industry achievable targets and the industry will comply. Is that too much to ask?

    • Big-Bob-E

      Jesse Girl...I disagree with #1 And #3 The very best and most interesting professors I had at WVU were the full-blow Professors and they only taught a few classes that I had. Generally you had an associate Professor who wasn't nearly the expert in their fields.

      As far as your "playground" for the left wow. I would argue that the "right" is more interested in restricting "freedom of thought." Have you ever tried to have a conversation with a "right winger" concerning abortion or about the "one point of view" And, your statement about scientist searching for the "correct outcome" you seem to be a bit is empirical is what it is.

      • Jesse's girl

        Big-Bob-E. I have had personal experience and have spoken with others who have personal experience. As to #1--very often, those who are top researchers are not those who interact well with people. They go into their labs and shut the door. However, they are hired as they bring in BIG grants. As to #3--where have you been? The whole "climate change" issue is a stunning example. I have had enough study and enough background, especially in paleobotany, to KNOW that the earth is dynamic and not static. The so-called "climate" predictions are based on computer models which have never been an even slightly correct predictor of future events. Why? We simply do not know enough about anything connected to put in data which will give anything close to a reliable prediction. The "Climategate" out of East Anglia Univ., UK is the posterchild for all of this. The emails among them told how they were fudging data: 12 trees selected from a database of 250 because those 12 gave the CO2 "results" they wanted--another choosing 3 trees from the same dataset to show that the Medieval warming had not occurred in spite of contemporary writings. BTW, that method of tree coring has too much "noise" in the tree ring growth of be of use for CO2. Michael Mann admitted that he achieved his "hockey stick curve" by throwing out all of the data points which did not give that shape. A year ago, I sat in stunned amazement at a "Climate Panel" in Fairmont and listened to the chairman of the WVU Biology Dept. whine about how any change would devestate the Southern Appalachian Forest where he "claimed" to do "research". He either had no idea how the Southern Appalachian Forest came to be (it is an amalgamation of species from Miocene to the Pleistocene Glaciation) or he was not telling the truth--or both. Science is only as good as the character of the scientists conducting it. The East Anglia Climate Research Unit is responsible for what goes to the UN. That group discussed how to remove "unhelpful" journal editors and how to keep those researchers who disagreed with them from being able to publish in juried journals. Finally, you are admitting you do not like discussions w/ Conservatives. I can tell you why. Conservatism is based on facts and not feelings--it is ideology and not a "make me feel good" philosophy. Conservative are those who are students of history and human nature. We know what works and what does not. Liberalism has never worked and never will, no matter who tries it. It is an "utopia", and as my MHS Problems of Democracy teacher, Radine Pellegrin, told our class in 1962: "all utopias fail because of human nature and when human nature comes into play you have to kill and jail a lot of people". Good intentions count for nothing--results count for everything. And that is what you cannot accept for whatever reason.