There are many factors to examine when trying to choose a college. The advent of the internet has made the selection process a lot easier for prospects and their families. Instant access to costs, rankings, and many other vital statistics associated with colleges has helped to make the higher education field somewhat of a commodity. As discussed last month, it is entirely possible that the traditional college path may not be right for your student. But for the sake of discussion, we will say your student is planning to attend a traditional school.
For most of us, cost will play a significant role in determining our ideal college. The cost of anything is likely to come down to return-on-investment. Walmart sells $150.00 lawnmowers. John Deere sells $1,500.00 lawnmowers. The Walmart mower is one-tenth the cost. The John Deere mower is likely to be ten times more efficient. Which provides a greater return-on-investment? It depends on your lawn, your available time, and your goals.
Colleges operate under principles similar to those which apply to the mower analogy. It is very helpful to know what a credit hour will cost your student. Once that is determined, it is equally important to make some educated guesses regarding what that credit hour will get you. A friend of mine who is studying to become a Registered Nurse was telling me that the college name on the diploma makes a big difference to potential employers in her field. “I’ve found programs which cost less and are more convenient” she said, “but I know the doctors don’t esteem those as highly.”
The credit hour is likely to be half the cost at some schools, like the ones to which my friend was referring. In her opinion, the cost of having potential employers overlook her for a job would far outweigh the credit hour savings.
On the other hand, I work with plenty of top-level programmers. If that is a field your student is considering, I think you would be hard pressed to substantiate that potential employers look very critically at the institution whose name appears on your diploma.
I want to point out a number that is much more useful, in most cases, than a magazine ranking. It is called “placement rate.” An institution’s placement rate tells you the percentage of students employed in their field of study or accepted at a graduate school within six months of graduation. I am surprised by how few prospects think to inquire about it before making a decision. I am not surprised that many schools choose not to advertise their placement rate. Do not be too surprised if the school you are considering is reluctant to release that information, but be sure to ask for it.