Wall Street Journal

What is it "practical" to study in college? You'd be surprised!

For many parents and students, the most-lucrative path seems obvious: be practical. The public and private sectors are urging kids to abandon the liberal arts, and study fields where the job market is hot right now.

Dr. Peter Cappelli, George W. Taylor Professor of Management and Director of the Center for Human Resources at the Wharton School and Professor of Education, has some very good, "practical" advice for students and their families in a recent Wall Street Journal article -- Why Focusing Too Narrowly in College Could Backfire.

Here's an excerpt:

Schools, in turn, are responding with new, specialized courses that promise to teach skills that students will need on the job. A degree in hospital financing? Casino management? Pharmaceutical marketing?

Little wonder that business majors outnumber liberal-arts majors in the U.S. by two-to-one, and the trend is for even more focused programs targeted to niches in the labor market.

Is a working knowledge of technology part of your skill set? It probably should be...

In a Wall Street Journal opinion piece, Sorry, College Grads, I Probably Won't Hire You, Kirk McDonald, president of PubMatic, an ad tech firm in Manhattan, makes the case for a basic knowledge of information systems as a part of every student's skill set no matter what field or major they're interested in pursuing. Engineering, fashion, education, finance, geology, medicine, public service -- it's relevant everywhere today. It's as necessary a part of an education as being able to write well. Just ask anyone, for example,who has had to work with a tech firm to create a website whether it's for a businessor a personal blog. Great advice and something for high schoolers to consider now and as they look at colleges and what they offer.

College Admission in the Wall Street Journal

Te Wall Street Journal, February 21, 2012 Should Colleges Be Factories for the 1%? Obama wants the feds to report what a college's graduates earn. That's no way to judge an educational institution. By Robin Mamlet and Christine VanDeVelde In his recently unveiled Blueprint for College Affordability, President Obama calls for "collecting earnings and employment information for colleges and universities, so that students can have an even better sense of the life they'll be able to build once they graduate." In other words, the government wants to publish statistics on what graduates earn after leaving Harvard or Ohio State or Duke. The results are unlikely to surprise. For all the costs of collecting and collating this information—for the sake of reducing the costs of education, no less—it will show what is intuitively obvious: On average, Ivy League grads earn more. But the information will be worse than useless for college-bound students because it will send them all the wrong signals. The Obama administration decries the privilege of the top 1%, yet the president is suggesting that the likelihood of joining that 1% should be a top factor in college selection. That puts the government's imprimatur on the idea that earning potential trumps learning potential—and it runs counter to everything most educators believe in. Earnings power is not a good proxy for educational excellence.

A Valuable Perspective on Paying for College

Get Smart About College from the Wall Street Journal examines the question of how parents and students think about paying for college. There's some excellent advice here from authors Sandy Baum and Michael McPherson, both admired experts on higher education, known for their trenchant and original thinking backed by data.  In particular, hurrah for their focus on fit and highlighting the fact that students who get into selective colleges but opt for cheaper schools are less likely to graduate -- a decision therefore that can be far more costly than it first appears. And the spreadsheet the authors suggest is basically our Financial Aid Package Evaluator that you can find in our book and right here on our website under the Worksheets tab. But read the whole article! All in all, it's a valuable investment perspective on one of the most expensive decisions most families will make.