Is College Worth It? USA Funds Rolls Out $3.5M in Grants to Find Out

To help collect more information for consumers, USA Funds is launching four performance measure grants valued across 12 states.

by Julia McCandless / October 28, 2015 0
In Indiana, home of Indiana University at Bloomington, USA Funds is partnering with the Indiana Commission for Higher Education. flick/Joey Lax-Salinas

College is no joke. As any alum knows, it takes a serious investment of time, money and energy to achieve that college degree. But in today’s competitive job market, more people are asking themselves: Is it worth it? That’s exactly what USA Funds is hoping to examine as it rolls out a new grant portfolio to measure the value of postsecondary education and training programs in the United States. 

Today’s parents and prospective college students hold real concerns about a degree's return on investment (ROI) — and with good reason. In fact, according to data obtained by USA Funds, approximately 40 percent of students who attend college never complete their degree. What’s more, approximately 50 percent of graduated college students surveyed revealed they are either unemployed, underemployed or would have chosen a different major if they could. 

According to Derek Redelman, senior program director at USA Funds, that’s something he hopes these grants will change.

“There’s nothing more disturbing than for those young adults who have done everything right — they’ve gone to college, gotten a degree, and are now sitting in tens of thousands of dollars in debt and can’t find a job in the field they studied,” he says. “We think it’s very important that consumers have better information going in so they can understand when it’s worth it and when it’s not worth it.” 

To help collect more information for consumers, USA Funds is launching four performance measure grants valued at $3.5 million across 12 states.

In Indiana, the organization is partnering with the Indiana Commission for Higher Education to enhance the existing program-level ROI reports based on data from the Gallup-Purdue Index of graduates’ satisfaction and lifelong dividends their degree produced. 

In Kentucky, Georgia and New Mexico, the USA Funds will partner with the National Center for Higher Education Management Systems to evaluate the degrees and credentials being produced at state and regional levels compared to employer demands.

The third grant uses data from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to combine quantitative data (i.e., wage, employment) with employee satisfaction data in Colorado, Texas, Tennessee and Minnesota. Finally, in California, Mississippi, Ohio and Rhode Island, the organization is partnering with the National Skills Coalition to support states and leaders in making informed decisions about workforce training programs that are most effective in preparing for real-world employment. 

As Redelman points out, the goal of collecting this valuable data is to support educational advancements that will benefit students, policymakers and postsecondary institutions.

“Our greatest hope is this information will be valued by the higher education community,” he said. “We know it’s not all about wages, there are other factors that come into play. What we hear from the vast majority of those looking at higher education is it’s about getting a good job and a good salary. We are quite confident that there are a lot of folks in higher education that want to help students achieve those goals, and we are hopeful that higher education will respond to this kind of information.”