Saturday, August 08, 2009

Added Value

It is hard to measure how much added value college provides. In my case it provided a wife, but that wasn't in the brochure or the Barron's Guide. If we step back from the academic mindset we might see this more clearly.

If you were hiring someone to look after your preschooler, the type of credential they had might be important to you. Person A has a few courses in child development and first aid. Person B has multiple years of specific study. It is in one sense quite easy to choose between those two, and we leap to the conclusion that the years of study provided important knowledge. Yet regardless of the content of the training, we know something obvious that we overlook. The latter person was willing to devote years to learning the task, the former might have been quite desultory in their studies. Even if the content was useless in both cases, the person who was willing to make that effort is likely to be a better bet for your child. They care about this. They want to do it well. The people who are in this pool of multi-year study are not the same people as those who have only the few courses.

If that group excels over the others, we falsely conclude that it must be the training that provided the added value. We don't stop to consider that the person may have had much if not all of that added value before they even started studying.

So if you collect a bunch of kids with SAT 1300 - I guess that would be SAT 1950 now - and put them in one college, and put a second group of 900/1350 in another college, you would expect the former group to look a lot smarter at the end of their college careers. But how do we sort out how much of that smartness was added value by the college, and how much was where they were going to go anyway if people just generally put the right books and assignments in front of them?

Is there any school that really gives you $150,000 of added value?

1 comment:

karrde said...

Don't know.

I do know that when I received a 4-year scholarship to a private, engineering-oriented school, it was quoted at approximately $42000 in value for tuition.

When I finished that program, the same award for incoming freshman would be quoted at closer to $60000 in value.

Of course, room/board on campus would have been accounted separately.

I learned a great deal there. I could have learned it elsewhere.

In the technical fields, I learned many things that would have been hard for me to learn in a self-directed manner. Not impossible; just hard.

In the field broadly named "humanities", I learned things that I would have likely learned on my own, had I chosen to study those subjects. I discovered that the fundamentals of the field were easy for a person at a certain level of literacy and with a certain amount of desire to read.

Was it worth the amount of money the scholarship fund paid on my behalf?

I don't know.