Public Agenda
Commentary

Choosing a College

Will Friedman, Ph.D. and Carolin Hagelskamp, Ph.D.

Reprinted from The New York Times - October 29, 2013

Higher education leaders are neglecting an important factor as they seek to measure college value (“Lists That Rank Colleges’ Value Are on the Rise,” front page, Oct. 28).

Better school performance data is insufficient for helping prospective students choose a college wisely. Many students do not immediately understand how this data relates to their own chances for success in college and in the work force.

Our organization, Public Agenda, recently conducted research with adults who do not have a college degree and are considering returning to school — an important and growing group. While these adults seek a high-quality education that improves their job prospects, only 45 percent say it is essential to know what jobs and salaries a school’s alumni receive. Just 47 percent say knowing a college’s graduation rate is essential information.

If higher education leaders truly want to help prospective students choose a college that maximizes their academic and financial prospects, they must engage students and provide the support these students need to interpret school quality data and connect it to their own lives.