Value of Education

2 February 2017

There are many facets that give value to an education; however, the cost cannot be ignored. Parents make the initial choices for their children’s education. The choice is primarily based on economics, but parents’ own educational experiences also affect the choice. The cost of public or private education, even at the elementary level, is considerable. The only difference is that one is paid through taxes and the other by private individuals. Having attended only private schools, my perspective may be somewhat biased.

However, a child’s education, whether private or public, is reflective of what the parent values. Is there a way to measure the value of the costs? The current education system measures how well students progress through testing; however, if Susie gets an A and Johnny gets a C on the same test it does not necessarily mean that Susie got more value than Johnny. Faculty, administration, and class size vary from school to school and in public education there is usually no choice.

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Some may find greater educational value in having choices in those areas. Private schools give more options, and in the case of post-secondary education, a student can be selective and find the institution that fits his or her goals. This is not to say, however, that the public education system should remain stagnant in their roles. Finding ways to motivate students to truly learn and enjoy learning through creative methods is necessary. It may be difficult for parents or students to perceive value strictly through what is taught in the classroom.

Learning moved outside of the classroom walls and into the world around them provides students with a new perspective that is liberating for many. Helping students learn life skills along with book knowledge creates value. For example, teaching a student math skills and then applying those skills in balancing a check book generates value into the learning process. Another thing that creates value in education is the realization that individuals are unique and that each student learns in a different way and at a different pace.

Each student needs to learn their own strengths and weaknesses through a variety of learning methods. Giving options to students such as either write a paper on a particular subject or make a power point presentation on the same subject adds value through the student’s individual choice. School curricula that teach a one size fits all approach fall short of providing students with the motivation to learn. I believe one of the reasons for the dramatic increase in home-schooling stems from the lack of public schools to customize the learning process in the world we live in today.

According to Daniel H. Pink in his essay “School’s Out”, students being home-schooled increased from approximately 15,000 in 1980 to 300,000 in 1990 and are well over 1. 5 million now (90). That is a 1900% increase over a decade of time and still growing. Pink also states that, “Home-schooled children consistently score higher than traditional students on standardized achievement tests…” (91). The learning environment in home-schooling must be motivating the students to excel. I disagree with Pink’s assertion that home-schooled kids are socially well rounded, however.

The drawback is the lack of social activity with people of the same age. Home-schooled kids miss out on the day to day social growth that occurs in the traditional school setting. I have known a number of high school aged home-schooled kids that came for a class once a week at the private school I attended, and they each seemed socially challenged to some degree. Our school included them in the extra-curricular activities offered which provided an avenue for greater social interaction.

Nevertheless, there appears to be value in the customized approach to education that home-schooling allows. Another aspect of valuing an education, in particular a college education, is a monetary one. The earnings potential of receiving a college degree drives many students to pursue a post-secondary education. Cheever points out that college graduates are likely to make much more money in their lifetimes than those with only a high school education (103). One thing that needs to be factored into that calculation though is the amount of debt a student will have to epay after graduating. Student loans usually have a 5% to 6% interest rate that adds up through the years. For example, one of my cousins who graduated from college in 2000 is still repaying student loans. Even though they may be earning a decent salary, in our current economy, it may make it more difficult for a college graduate to purchase a home, have a family or save for retirement when overloaded with educational debt. This issue makes a case that the cost of education may be too high for those that cannot pay the tuition without going into debt.

Students and parents should be expected to pay for the largest portion of a college education; however, the costs need to be less prohibitive for that to reasonably happen. I realize there are scholarships and grants that help many students, but the vast majority of students find it necessary to either have a job while in college or borrow the money. Is there any value in becoming indebted for ten to fifteen years to pay for an education? Parents should help their kids understand the ramifications of too much debt.

Students may get all caught up in the glamour of going to college and not think about the effect the cost may have in the future. I am aware of instances where college graduates have had to go outside of their major field of study to find a job that paid enough to support them and the educational debts they carried. Putting a value on the time it takes to pay back the loans and the other things that may be unattainable until they are paid is difficult to measure.

I have discussed a few of the facets that give value to education. In my opinion however, the value of an education is subjective to each individual. For instance, someone who attends a certain college because parents, siblings or grandparents attended may be valuable to them, even though there are less expensive or better colleges suiting their interests. A person may choose a certain institution of higher education solely based on its reputation for the specific field of study the student pursues which they find valuable.

Parents may choose a private school over public because they see value in the smaller class size or in a particular emphasis of study the school provides. Cheever states that, “Focusing on educational value, and not solely on cost, means that students, parents, faculty and administrators must ask tough questions” (103). Since I believe value is a personal determination, those questions would be different for each individual. Something that I deem valuable may not be valuable to the next student.

Due to the high cost and the vast variety of options for post-secondary education, a thorough examination of what one values is a wise first step in evaluating if one should attend college or which college to attend. The investment one is required to make for an education is significant and should not be taken lightly. Only the individual can decide if the courses taught and the methods used in comparison to the money spent is worth it. The true value of an education may not be known for many years after the money has been spent.

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