In this blog and video, we will reflect on the value proposition of higher education and how the SmarterMeasure Learning Readiness Indicator can inform individuals as they are making the decision that is right for them regarding college.

At a gathering a few years ago, a friend of mine, who was young, single, and great at questioning the status quo confidently stated, "I don't know about having kids. It just seems like a poor financial decision to me." The others in the room were mostly older, married, parents, and we chuckled at his position. We responded with phrases like "But you will be missing out on one of the best parts of life!" and "While it is initially expensive, later in life your kids may take care of you." Now, a decade later, that friends is the father of three young kids and spends time each week tutoring impoverished children who do not speak English as their first language.

There is also a parallel narrative in America these days that is questioning the value of college. Primarily, opponents of a college education contend that "it just seems like a poor financial decision to them."

kid bankLet's face it – the cost of raising a child and attending college are both expensive. The Washington Post reported on data from the US Agriculture Department, that the average annual cost of raising a child in the US is $17,000 per year. Also, according to the Education Data Initiative, the average annual cost of attendance for a student living on campus at a public 4-year institution is $26,000 per year.

So, how do you decide if making either of these financial commitments is right for your and your family?

Just like my friend questioned the financial wisdom of having a child, there is a growing sentiment that the investment in college may not be worth it. According to National Public Radio, "The share of US adults who believe colleges and universities have a positive impact on the country has dropped by 14 percentage points since 2020." This attitude is reflected in college completion figures. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, "Between fall 2010 and fall 2021, total undergraduate enrollment in degree-granting postsecondary institutions decreased by 15 percent."

The potential long-term socio-economic impacts of these attitudinal and enrollment declines could be substantial, not only individually, but collectively as a society.decline

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, individuals without a college degree are about 40% more likely to be unemployed.

According to the American Association of Community Colleges, more than 13 percent of people over age 25 with a high school diploma but not college degree live in poverty, compared to just 4 percent of people who have earned at least a bachelor's degree.

According to the The College Board, those who graduate high school but do not go to college are two times more likely to receive Medicaid benefits , and they are four times more likely to use food stamps and need public housing.

The individual and collective impacts of limited education are not only financial.

According to the US Census Bureau, people without college educations are less likely to vote.

According to The College Board, persons without a higher education are less likely to volunteer.



As reported in the NY Times, research suggests that the early mortality rates of people with at least some college are less than half of those who never attended college.That research also indicated that people with greater educational attainment suffer less anxiety and depression and fewer serious health conditions like cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

New call-to-actionIn addition to these financial, social, and health related benefits, there are other rewards for going to college.

Expanded Career Opportunities: One of the most commonly states reasons for pursuing higher education is the potential for increased job prospects and better earning potential across a wider range of industries. It can be the difference between a job and a career.

Skill Development: College can provide an environment for persons to develop essential skills such as critical thinking, problem-solving, communication, and teamwork. These skills are highly sought after by employers in many fields and can significantly enhance long-term career success.

Networking: The collegiate experience offers a unique opportunity to build a strong professional network, which can lead to valuable connections and future career opportunities.

Cultural Exposure: College is not just about academic learning; it also provides a platform for personal growth and exposure to diverse perspectives leading to more open-mindedness with less bias and racism.

But even with all of these benefits, there are still some significant considerations before investing one's time and money into the college experience.

Rising Tuition Costs: College tuition fees have been skyrocketing, outpacing inflation rates for many years. This exponential increase has resulted in significant financial burdens for students and their families. The accumulation of student loan debt has become a major concern, potentially delaying major life milestones such as marriage, homeownership, and retirement savings.

Alternative Pathways: While a college degree has traditionally been seen as a prerequisite for many professions, there is a growing recognition of alternative pathways to success. Vocational training, apprenticeships, and entrepreneurship are gaining popularity as viable alternatives to a traditional college education.

Uncertain Return on Investment: Despite the advantages of a college degree, there is no guarantee of immediate job placement or high-paying employment upon graduation. Economic factors, evolving job market demands, and the over-saturation of certain fields can lead to underemployment or difficulty finding employment directly related to one's major.

Another important consideration is goodness of fit. For some persons, the process of extended studying just does not seem to be a good fit for them. Succeeding in college requires an internal set of dispositions such as motivation, control over procrastination, and willingness to ask for help, coupled with skill sets such as computing skills, reading skills, as well as academic abilities, especially in math and writing.

While the socio-economic factors are certainly a driving factor in the decision to invest in college, they are typically not the reasons why students drop out of college. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation found that most students drop out of college because of availability of time, lack of support from family, and lack of discipline coupled with other non-cognitive factors.

So, how can a person know if college is a good fit for them? Well, that is exactly what the SmarterMeasure Learning Readiness Indicator is designed to do. It is an online personality survey that helps a person recognize their strengths and identify opportunities for growth.

Since 2002, over 6.5 million students from over 1,000 institutions have taken the assessment. Not only does it enhance self-awareness for the student, but schools are able to identify at-risk learners who many need support. Students immediately receive a colorful and graphical score report that helps them understand their position and be informed about support services their school provides. Some schools make the assessment available to prospective students, others integrate it into the admissions process, and some position it in an orientation course or first-year experience program.

If you would like to learn more about how your school can integrate and utilize SmarterMeasure, take a look at the following case studies:

Also check out these free resources that we provide to advisors to make their conversations more personal:

Finally, if you would like to take SmarterMeasure for yourself, just send a request to today.

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