College Funding Debate Continues June 17, 2013

Ian Welham share reader reactions to William Bennett’s new book.

William Bennett’s latest book, “Is College Worth It?” has stirred a good bit of controversy — and commentary. When I wrote about it last week I encouraged readers to submit their opinions.

The comments ranged from “Colleges are nothing more than money grubbers,” to the Malcolm Forbes quote: “Education’s purpose is to replace an empty mind with an open one.”

This particularly thoughtful response came from Bruce Ficken of Summit, NJ.

Professor Welham,

 Thank you for the missives and information in your weekly bulletin.

 Sharing some thoughts on William Bennett’s comments…

 1.        It sounds a bit harsh and overbearing.

2.       The notion that the quality of one’s education can be measured by income within two years of graduation does NOT sit well with me;

3.       Most folks don’t really know themselves at such a young age, much less having a concrete conviction for their future profession;

4.       My numbers may be off a bit but believe that those that graduate from college tend to earn twice as much during their lifetime as non graduates…does how much they earn within two years of graduation really the best way to analyze the investment in education?  I think not;

5.       The comments, which may have a context to them, are not just an indictment of higher education, but in my mind is more relevant to the worst economy of our lifetimes with employers targeting more experienced workers, which can lead to excluding very bright, ambitious young people from employment, causing many to have to be very patient about their career development;

6.       The comments might be taken as a “why bother” by young people or even their parents, which is harmful and naïve in the long term.

7.       Education helps prepare people for future decisions, develops critical thinking skills that last a lifetime and helps make people feel good about themselves;

8.       I believe Benjamin Franklin once wrote…”An investment in education pays the best dividends”.

9.       An old saying…”if you think education is expensive, try ignorance.”

If I were at a theater listening to Dr. Bennett’s comments, I might “boo”.  Thank you for inviting me to share my thoughts. 


Bruce Ficken

Tulane University B.A. 1982

New York University M.S. 1994

New York University M.S. 2005

Thank you, Mr. Ficken. Well said.

As you can imagine, the educational community had lots to say about Mr. Bennett’s premise. Citing Bureau of Labor Statistics numbers, MIT economist Michael Greenstone reports that the unemployment rate for college graduates with a bachelor’s degree or higher is about half the rate of high school grads, and lifetime income is greater by over half a million dollars.

Looking at it from a “return on investment” perspective he concludes that the ROI on a college investment is twice that of other common investments. Professor Greenstone states that, according to the Brookings Institute, “on average, the benefits of a four-year college degree are equivalent to an investment that returns 15.2 percent per year. This is more than double the average return to stock market investments since 1950, and more than five times the returns to corporate bonds, gold, long-term government bonds, or home ownership.”

Who’s going to argue with an MIT professor?

This post was written by paul on June 17, 2013
Posted Under: College Funding,Uncategorized Tags: , , , ,

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