Face to Face: Is the price of college worth the education?


Josephine Yee

Face-to-Face is a feature that allows two members of the Redwood Community to grill each other, argue or simply converse about a relevant issue or event. We provide the topic, and they do the rest. This month’s participants are seniors Madeline Stull and Alison Schwartz. The two discuss their opinions relating to the cost of a college education.

Is the price of college worth the education?
Madeline Stull: I think it depends on the situation. Different colleges cost different amounts, but for some people, it may relatively be more, and other people make a lot more money so it is not as much as a financial hardship for them. It also depends on how much people actually get out of [a college education]. Some people get a great experience out of it and they meet great people. Other people go and they don’t really find anything interesting. In that case, it wouldn’t be worth it, so I think it depends on each scenario.

Alison Schwartz: A lot of the colleges that people from Redwood are going to, for example, USC, the tuition is around $70,000. I know a lot of people who are going to community colleges and they’re getting basically the same amount of human capital [economic value of a human’s skills]. A lot of what you’re paying for isn’t necessarily the tuition, but it’s just the room and board, so you’re basically paying for community college at a resort.

Can someone continue to pursue their career goals without a college education?
MS: Yes, definitely. I’ve heard countless stories of people who started businesses, and I think Apple was started in a garage. Some people never go to college and yet they or their company are currently worth billions of dollars. It also depends on the (pursuant’s) field. If you want to be a doctor, you obviously have to go to med school. However if you want to be a professional musician for example, and you’re a prodigy by 18, going to college isn’t particularly necessary because you were already recruited by an orchestra. So, it really depends on what career path you want to pursue. Certain fields definitely have a better chance of getting a job that you are interested in if you have a college degree, but it can change.

AS: It depends on what you’re doing. Obviously, you probably are capable of learning things yourself but college makes it a lot easier. The difference between a four-year college and a community college, for example, is where I think people have that wrong.

Do you believe that there should be a limit to how much a college should charge for tuition? If yes, then how much, approximately?
MS: Yes. I think that if there wasn’t a limit, then colleges can pretty much keep raising prices until they start losing students. As they raise prices, more and more people can’t afford to go to college, which will just increase gaps between social classes. I think that some of the colleges that charge seventy grand are pushing it, that’s a lot. For grad school or (a) Ph.D., I get that it would be a little bit more expensive because those degrees are worth a lot more in the long run. Ideally, it would be great if college was free because then many more people could access it. Since that currently isn’t possible due to funding, I would say a maximum of $40,000 to $45,000.

AS: That would be a price ceiling, which unnecessarily increases the [size of the] market. Colleges are collecting this amount for tuition because people will pay for it. I don’t think that the solution is necessarily for colleges to make their tuitions lower, but to either subsidize or to incentivize them to make them lower, not necessarily to just put a price ceiling on it.

Regarding the recent college scandals on parents bribing their children’s way into college, do you think that the perpetrator’s (parents and/or students) actions can be justifiable?
MS: I can understand their motivations, but [that] doesn’t make it okay. I think that proves how desperate people got and how insane the college process has gotten in recent years. But it’s definitely not okay because that just gives wealthy families a leg up in the college admissions process. I can see where their motivations are coming from, but it doesn’t justify (their actions).

AS: It’s justifiable in that the feeling of today’s society of wanting to get into college with a lot of prestige is really real. For example, I got into a couple of schools that are really good institutions, but they just don’t have as much prestige as I would like. So that’s a valid point, but it’s definitely not valid enough to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars and completely embarrass yourself in front of the entire world.