February 13, 2015

More than half of all college graduates (55 percent) say recent graduates will see a lower return on investment (ROI) from their education than college graduates 10 to 15 years ago, according to the 2015 College Degree Investment Survey conducted by Nielsen (formerly Harris Interactive) on behalf of Greenwood Hall Inc.

“What this survey suggests is that schools need to maximize their perceived value,” said Dr. John Hall, Ed.D., CEO of Greenwood Hall. “One powerful way of accomplishing this is by enhancing student engagement and the overall student experience throughout the student lifecycle. Our experience in working with colleges and universities across the country suggests that proactive and on-demand student coaching makes a real difference in not only improving student outcomes but also enhancing student perceptions of value.”

When ranked by age, the differences of opinion among college grads when it comes to gauging educational ROI are relatively slim. The survey found that 59 percent of alumni ages 45-54 say recent graduates will see a lower return on investment, compared with 10 to 15 years ago, followed by grads ages 55+ (57 percent), 18-34 (56 percent) and 35-44 (47 percent).

An even greater number of wealthier college graduates believe the ROI from a degree today is less than a decade ago. Nearly two-thirds (64 percent) of college grads making more than $100K annually say today’s grads will see a lower ROI, compared with grads making $50K-$100K (58 percent), $35K-$50K (51 percent) and less than $35K (47 percent). Only 12 percent of those making more than $100K say today’s grads will see a higher ROI, compared with those earning $75K-$100K (25 percent), $35K-$50K (26 percent), $50K-$75K (19 percent) and less than $35K (25 percent).

Comparisons by Ethnicity

Minority graduates seem to have a more positive outlook regarding the value of today’s college degrees. When segmented by race, 33 percent of Hispanic college graduates, and 29 percent of African-American grads, say today’s grads will see a higher ROI than those graduating 10-15 years ago, compared with only 16 percent of white graduates. However, these groups pretty much see eye-to-eye when it comes to lower ROI, with 57 percent of whites saying today’s grads will see a lower ROI than grads in years past, followed by Hispanics (52 percent) and African-Americans (49 percent).

Barriers to Success

Most grads cite high student debt and lower salaries as primary reasons today’s grads will get a lower ROI from their education vs. graduates 10-15 years ago. High student debt was the No. 1 response with 80 percent of college grads saying it is a reason for lower ROI, followed by lower salaries (75 percent), inadequate career placement resources (44 percent), colleges not engaged with students’ long-term success (41 percent) and course enrollment problems prolonging students’ paths to graduation (30 percent).

Not much of a surprise for younger grads. Eighty-five percent of alumni ages 18-34 say high student debt contributes to a college degree’s lower ROI, followed by lower salaries (74 percent) and inadequate career services (48 percent).

While the reasons cited for lower ROI between 2-year and 4-year grads are relatively similar, lower salaries and inadequate career placement resources are where they differ most. Seventy-seven percent of 4-year grads say lower salaries are a cause for lower ROI, compared to 70 percent of 2-year graduates. However, 51 percent of 2-year grads say inadequate career placement services are culprits for lower ROI, compared to 42 percent of 4-year grads.

“It’s also important to know that there is a lot of data that suggests post-secondary education continues to provide a powerful ROI and is the bridge to meaningful career opportunities,” added Dr. Hall. “We feel that supporting students every step of the way, especially those at risk, during the enrollment process, student services/financial aid inquiries, on-going counseling as well as career placement, is a comprehensive approach that can significantly enhance a school’s real and perceived value.”

 

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