Weigh The Economics Of Higher Education

James Krouse

Fifty years ago, educational success meant graduating from high school. Thirty years ago, the same level of success required graduation from college. Today, to remain competitive, “success” requires a master’s degree. Recruiters now want to see multiple degrees on resumes. The bar to stay competitive in today’s job market continues to rise—but so too does the cost of higher education.

For decades, the assumed rite of passage for higher education was the standard four-year degree, earned on an idyllic landscaped campus, surrounded by your peers. But with the competitive pressure to attain ever-higher levels of education, does that traditional campus-based standard hold up?

Increasingly, it does not. College costs are skyrocketing. While proponents of the traditional campus model might argue that a significant part of “higher education” is the experience of the college environment and life learning, the economic pendulum continues to swing. College can be both fun and educational, but perhaps students are simply becoming more practical: economics trumps fun?

Online coursework, virtual learning, collaborative educational channels – all can serve as a path to a degree; none require on-campus attendance.

One approach many of today’s students are taking is to attend more affordable junior colleges, which enable them to work toward a degree while maintaining a relationship with four-year institutions. In this case, the student attends a junior college for two years, saving thousands of dollars on tuition and fees, and then transfers into a four-year program to complete their degree. The degree highlighted on the resume is the same; all that’s missing are those social activities and the idyllic environment of the college campus.

University Business magazine (@universitybiz) profiled an online university that entered an agreement in which community college students can apply their coursework toward a master’s degree. The Washington State Board for Community and Technical Colleges signed the agreement with Western Governors University Washington – a not-for-profit university.

These are just two examples of how students are re-examining the higher education cost vs. benefit model, and how the system is adapting to maintain educational excellence and professional growth in the face of escalating expenses.  Education costs must be balanced against the perceived rewards: The balance appears a continual shift toward economics.

For more on how economics and the digital economy is changing higher education, see The Future Of Learning – Keeping Up With The Digital Economy.


James Krouse

About James Krouse

James Krouse is the director of Global Solutions Marketing at SAP. He is the global strategic marketing lead for the healthcare and higher education industry groups and is responsible for tailoring GTM strategies, analyst relations, government relations, positioning, and messaging.