Parents are paying less for college than ever before while also believing that a college degree is worth more than it once was, according to a Sallie Mae study.
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There's no question that the institution of college is here to stay – in the information era, education is the credential that certifies students as being engaged in the modern world. The operative question is, by contrast: What are we willing to pay for it? And what do we get for our money?
A survey released yesterday by Sallie Mae found that parents are contributing less of their income toward their child’s college education – about 10 percent less – than they did four years ago. This comes even as the percentage of parents describing college as a (presumably worthwhile) investment climbed 10 points to 90 percent.
Once upon a time, college was an option generally only for the strongest students, and a college degree largely guaranteed a series of well-paying, white-collar jobs from graduation to retirement. For many jobs now, however, a college degree is a requirement for applicants in the way that a high school degree once was – it's a gate check, not a guarantee.
This creates a paradox: the college degree is more essential, less of a valuable differentiator, and far more expensive than it used to be. All of this reevaluation is taking place even as the Internet threatens to completely overturn the apple cart and make affordable, quality distance-learning a practical reality.