How High School Counselors Can Help Students Evaluate Higher Ed

Some interesting new data was just released by MONEY and Kaplan Test Prep. Turns out that high school counselors are a bit more focused on helping high school students and their parents figure out how to pay for college than they are on helping students actually find the right college.

The behavior makes sense. After all, we’ve placed a huge cultural emphasis on going to college based on the fact that a degree commonly results in a better career, so it’s hardly surprising that young people spend more time questioning how to get in and pay for college than they do investigating the right type of education for their interests and aptitudes.

But we might have put the cart before the horse.

Here’s an interesting excerpt from the article:

What’s more, almost one-fourth of the counselors surveyed were skeptical about the college value proposition at today’s costs. Only 37% said they strongly agree that “the cost of a 4-year college degree today is justified for the value it delivers.”

Some high school counselors who were not part of the survey told MONEY that they and their colleagues generally think everyone needs some post-high school training or education to succeed in the today’s workforce. But the cost at some colleges has gotten so high that counselors and parents alike think the schools need to deliver much more value to justify their prices.

“I don’t think you can do without some college” today, says David T. Hooks, director of college counseling at West Nottingham Academy, a private prep school in northern Maryland. “I don’t think there’s any question that it is still valuable. But is it too expensive? Yes.”

What we have failed to emphasize in this discussion is that what you study could very well be just as important as whether you study. Simply getting a degree isn’t enough; you need to make sure your education will help you achieve a realistic and meaningful career that makes you happy.

The article continues:

The rising costs have made him and the families he serves much pickier, says Hooks, who is also the co-leader of a group of private high school counselors in the National Association for College Admission Counseling. “I’m much more selective in the schools where I place kids,” he says.

Hooks’s advice to parents on how to find the best value college for your money: Look for schools that graduate students who are “prepared to go into the workforce and command a relatively decent salary.”

How can you find this data on schools and salary? With Find Your Calling, we’ve created a simple way for students and parents to explore these and other helpful pieces of information regarding education and careers.

Screen Shot 2015-12-07 at 3.28.51 PM
Source: Find Your Calling

Let’s imagine that a young person (we’ll call him Andy) enjoys working with numbers, computers, and spreadsheets, and he’s clicked with math all through school. What this means is that Andy might excel at solving the types of problems that statisticians solve.

Let’s also say that Andy lives in California, where there’s good opportunity for statisticians. They make, on average, $98,000 per year. There are also over 3,500 in the state—not tons, but enough to make a presence, and they work at universities like Stanford and USC and businesses like Theorem Clinical Research and Johnson & Johnson. If Andy is still interested in becoming a statistician, the next question he needs to ask is, How much school do I need and what will it cost?

education breakdown
Source: Find Your Calling

A career as a statistician requires a decent amount of school. At minimum he’ll need a bachelor’s degree; nearly half of statisticians have their master’s.

Next, Andy should consider his investment in school. Below is a quick look at the colleges and universities in California that graduate the most statistician majors. The University of California-Berkeley leads the pack, followed by UCLA, both offering tuition under $13,000. Notice that Stanford graduates is also near the top of the list, but its price tag is more than triple at nearly $44,000.

Screen Shot 2015-12-07 at 3.29.44 PM
Source: Find Your Calling

Now that Andy has solid data on the relative costs (time + money) and benefits (wages and demand) for becoming a statistician, he can make determine whether the investment is something he actually wants to make.

Here’s the key: If more students, parents, and high school counselors were armed with this kind of data, the discussion regarding where (and whether) to enroll for college education and how to pay for it would go a lot more smoothly, and would give students the confidence that they are making the right decisions as they plan their future.

Explore more career and education opportunities at Find Your Calling. Let us know if you have any questions at fyc@economicmodeling.com.

Leave a Reply