Nov 07 2012

Cost of College: American Public vs. College Presidents

Pew study highlights differences in opinion, but it’s not all bad news.

Is college worth it?

It’s a question you will hear more people asking as tuition continues to rise. According to, in-state students at a public university can expect to pay about $21,447 per year, while students at private schools average more than twice that, at $42,224.

Expensive? No doubt about it. But some studies suggest that, over a lifetime, a college graduate could earn $800,000 more than someone with only a high school degree.

Ultimately, the return on investment might be too subjective to measure. A Pew report (download PDF) illustrates how perceptions about the cost of college differ between college presidents and the general public. Each group was surveyed independently, and, not surprisingly, their responses showed a partiality to their circumstances.

What the American public has to say about the cost of college:

  • 75 percent say college is too expensive for most Americans to afford.
  • $19,550 is the annual earnings gap between high school graduates and college graduates.
  • 94 percent of parents expect their children to go to college.
  • 86 percent of college graduates say that college was a good investment.
  • 48 percent of adults 18–34 without a four-year degree and not in school can’t afford to go to college.

What college presidents have to say about the cost of college:

  • 38 percent say that higher education is headed in the wrong direction.
  • 19 percent believe that America’s higher education is the best in the world.
  • 63 percent say that students and their families should pay the majority of college tuition.
  • 58 percent say that today’s public high school graduates come to college less prepared than students 10 years ago.
  • 64 percent doubt that we will achieve President Obama’s goal of having “the highest proportion of college graduates in the world” by 2020. (

It could be that there is no clear path for the future of higher education in America. As in politics, the two groups will need to meet somewhere in the middle to resolve this issue. College tuition is not likely to drop considerably in the near future, but there are other options emerging for high school graduates looking for more education. Sites such as Coursera, Udacity and edX offer free classes, and technology grants make education more accessible to students interested in STEM.

Here are three ideas to reduce the cost of college with technology. Have others? Let us know in the Comments section below.

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