+1 (978) 744-8828 Email Us  

Recruiting Intelligence

Justifying College Costs: Here's The Help You Need

How do you successfully market education? Is today's youth so disaffected by bleak job prospects that they just don't care? Are parents turned off by inflated and growing tuition costs?

Higher ed is increasingly challenged to demonstrate that education matters. More than ever before, higher ed must demonstrate that there is a positive return on the investment of time and money. What's a university to do?

Objective research to the rescue: the Pew Research Center recently provided a useful study, called “The Rising Cost of NOT Going to College.”

Chart 1 (below) shows the growing divergence of earnings between groups with different levels of education.  As you can see the gap has risen from generation to generation. Today’s millennials, with at least a Bachelor degree, earn significantly more than less educated full-time worker in the same age bracket of 25-32. 

This generation is the best educated group in history with 34 percent having reached a bachelor degree by the age of 32 versus 13 % in 1965.  (Chart 2 - left hand graph) 


The Pew researchers dispel a number of myths that education is a poor choice or investment. They don't hide the fact that the last recession hurt graduates and that college costs need to be controlled. Yet the data bears out the positive result of higher education for professional and other factors. 


The report highlights a number of other questions raised in the public debate. We have picked a few key issues we found compelling and supportive. We think these ideas ought to make it into your fact sheets and other recruiting materials for students and parents concerned about the value of your institution vis-a-vis costs and post-education employment opportunities.

  • The choice of major does matter: Future profession and revenue potential is tied to field of stuydy with technical fields correlating more strongly than liberal arts (maybe not a real surprise there). This reality does not necessarily mean liberal arts are poor preparation for professional life. (See Chart  2, middle graph).
  • Hindsight is 20/20: The researchers state that 38% (about 4 of 10 students) regret not studying harder, while 30% say they should have started looking for a job sooner. Similarly, 29% would have picked a different major. When analyzed together, the survey suggests that, among these items tested, only about a quarter (26%) of all college graduates have no regrets. And 21% of their fellow graduates say they should have done at least three or all four things differently (studied harder, looked for a job sooner, gained more work experience or chosen a differnt major) while in college to enhance their chances of landing the job they wanted upon graduation. 

We consider this PEW research a highly informative piece. It's a great marketing fact sheet for colleges. Obviously every college will differ in outcomes but the overall data speaks loudly. It demonstrates the value of education and offers well documented perspective for prospective students and parents about how to improve your odds of getting a job after graduation.

Clearly, one of those two audience segments (prospective student vs. parent) is going to be more receptive than the other to the message: if you pay for college, you really ought to spend your time studying. But that's a perenial issue that simply goes with the territory. We were all 18 once upon a time.

Lastly, let us point you to one of our fun projects at Intead that relates to this topic. Last year, we sponsored a social media competition to collect 1,000 quotes on WhyEducationMatters.org. We have created a great library of free social media content for your use. As you feed content into your social media stream, every once in a while snag one of our quotes placed on a beautiful image. Check out the full set of options on our website and encourage your social media team to use the content. Our goal: a massive PR campaign to support the concept of education as a worthy pursuit - in all forms and all ways.

What to do next: Help spread the word and squelch the misperception that higher ed is a waste of time and money. Use the Pew Research and take advantage of the free PR on WhyEducationMatters.org.