National Consumers League

Tread cautiously before investing in a college degree

zoeBy Zoe Stahl, Food and Labor Policy Intern
As a college student, I have acutely felt the rising cost of tuition and the anxiety inherent in a rapidly changing job market. Like many others, I have begun to question the value of a college degree, but a recent study by the Department of Labor (DOL) left me feeling reassured in my decision.

In April, the unemployment rate for college graduates was 3.9 percent, while the rest of the workforce experienced a 7.5 percent unemployment rate.  In November 2010, when the unemployment rate for college graduates was at its highest during this economic downturn, it was at just 5.1 percent—a figure near to the jobless rate of high school graduates when the economy is healthy. However, not all college attendees or graduates enjoy these benefits. Students who enroll in for-profit colleges such as The University of Phoenix, Kaplan Colleges, National American University, and Alta Colleges, do not guarantee a higher quality of life for themselvesFor-profit colleges often charge prices just as high as their non-profit counterpart, however, their attendees and graduates—often lower-income, military, and minority students—do not enjoy the same success. They often are unable to secure jobs and, as a result, default on their loans. Luckily, there are available and accessible resources to help students make more informed decisions about where to attend college—making sure we get as much bang for our buck. Some available resources are the Department of Education’s College Scorecard, which provides graduation rates, average tuition and default rates for American colleges and universities. Another tool is Accredited Online Schools & Colleges, an online database of accredited colleges. Using the website will help you find credible schools that provide an education that will serve you well in the marketplace.  These resources will help make you a more informed consumer and ensure paying for a college degree is a smart investment!