Paying for the Label
Are you paying for the Education, the Degree, or the Brand?
Like many of you, I believe in "school spirit" and showing pride in the institutions that helped shape who I am today. I would never suggest that the name of your alma mater should not matter to you on a personal level. But as tuition costs continue to rise each year (The OECD's annual "Education at a Glance" report states that the US is the second most expensive country in terms of tuition rates), we need to start asking ourselves how much we are willing to pay for "labels." Can a community college or state school provide the same type of education that a private school can? Is a final degree worth the same if the student starts off at a lesser known (and lesser priced) institution to do pre-requisite and general education coursework?
How Will You Value Your Education?In my opinion, the answer to both questions is a resounding "YES." We pursue higher education to gain knowledge, and in essence, become "smarter." So purely from an educational standpoint, I wonder what is so "smart" about spending upwards of $150-200K (much of which turns out to be long-term debt), just to get a label, if that same knowledge is available elsewhere, at a lower price. When I was a senior in high school, I remember waiting on pins and needles each day for the mail to arrive, hoping it would be an acceptance letter from a school that I wanted to attend. And when those letters came, the first thing I would look for was the college name was on the upper left hand corner of the envelope.
At that point in my life, it was all about the prestige associated with a label. Like many of you, I cherish the experiences I had in college, the friendships I made, and the education I received. I wouldn't trade those things for the world. But I also recognize the fact that a lot has changed since I was in school. Students today will not be graduating into the same great economy that I did, in the middle of a lucrative dot-com craze. Moreover, they will be paying a lot more than I did for the experiences they have.
Setting Priorities With Smart GuidanceSo at the end of the day, it just comes down to priorities. Here at EdAssist, our team of Educational and College Finance Advisors work with thousands of adult learners every year, helping them find the right balance between cost, brand, modality, program, and a number of other factors. Some absolutely want to pay for the "label" and have every right to do so. Others simply want to make sure they obtain the right skill-set, regardless of where it is from so they can advance in their careers.
Our job as advisors is to help the employees of our corporate clients understand the issues, but ultimately let them to make their own decisions. There is nothing wrong with paying for labels. Sometimes it makes sense. But the thing to remember is that like most other things in life, it comes down to choice. It may pay off, or it may not. There are arguments for both sides, and it is up to the student to decide for themselves. Oh, and in case you were wondering... I ended up buying my wife that purse for her birthday.
So yes, after all that, I did pay for a label. But in that particular case, I probably would have
paid much more if I didn't!