, Salem, MA

July 2, 2013

Letter: The value proposition has changed for higher education

The Salem News

---- — To the editor:

In response to Dr. Richard Wylie’s wonderfully written op-ed piece “College is worth the investment” (June 25), I agree wholeheartedly with all of the benefits of higher education he cited. Unfortunately, there is little emphasis on the cost side of the equation, and this is the primary cause of the decreasing value proposition of higher education. Tuition is increasing significantly year over year, students are leaving with more and more school loan debt, and the government subsidies for higher-education loans might be radically changed any day now.

If I could answer a few of Dr. Wylie’s questions: “Is it worth it?” Yes, higher education is still worth it, and I don’t believe we have seen a drop-off in enrollment, so most of our population believes this, as well. As for the alternative question: “Can we afford not to educate young men and women for the multifaceted challenges ahead?” On this topic, I think a different perspective is needed. Worldwide, most countries “cannot afford” to not to buy oil, or gas or energy. Our demand for those products is highly inelastic. As the price increases, our demand changes very little. Many economists believe we are close to an energy crisis. Do we want to follow the same path with higher education? Are the energy price increases not one of the biggest drags on our economy at the moment and projected to be for the future?

Perhaps, I could post an alternative question, a question I do not believe many people know the answer to: Why is it that the price increases for higher education, where the organizations generate profit, greatly outpace the cost increases for our public K-12 education? Both need to effectively accommodate the needs of today’s students and today’s job market.

Mike Grassia