Finding Consumer Value in the College Search

When you shop for any high priced consumer product (for example, a car) you START with the price, make several “need vs. want” calculations from there, and arrive at a final decision that offers what you need at a price that is within your family’s financial resources.

Only with a college education are you urged to look at price last. We follow a logical step-by-step procedure with all high-priced consumer purchases except one, a college education. Why not start your college search that way, because that is almost certainly where you’ll finish your search.

Yes, it pays to go to college. Lifetime earnings will double on average, civic engagement (voting, volunteering etc.) increases and life span is longer.

But value is there for the savvy consumer.  Examples of value you may find in the college search include:

  • co-op programs (Drexel, Northeastern) where valuable paid internships are a requirement.
  • five college consortiums (Amherst, Mass; Claremont colleges in California) in which a student may take courses at five different campuses.
  • PG or “Gap” year programs for the student who may get little out of the college experience right now.
  • colleges for whom the SATs or ACTs are optional (more than 25% of four year colleges)
  • non-traditional college settings for those of us who learn in at a different pace.
  • service academies or ROTC programs where part/all of expenses are paid for by the US taxpayer.

When you visit a campus, work hard to find out the following:


  • graduation rate within 4 years? within 6 years?
  • job placement by major? for the previous year’s senior class?
  • average student loan debt at graduation?
  • is the net price calculator easily navigable?
  • level of student support?

Nice to know and you’ll find it out soon enough if you enroll.

  • who teaches freshman courses, full professors? TAs?
  •  hybrid courses?
  •  % of grades that are A or B?

Be an educated consumer. If you view a college education as an investment, why approach the college search any other way?

David W. Clark, Ed.M. is an independent college admission consultant who has been working with high school students for more than thirty-five years. David is a graduate of the Harvard University Graduate School of Education. His website is worth visiting and he can be reached there.

**More than two years of archived monthly e-newsletter articles can be read at http:/