Product Label on Education

Categories Career, Education

Most M.B.A. programs spent a fair amount of effort in collecting and publicizing the employment outcome of their recent graduates.  Potential students can find top employers, top industries, salary statistics, and other useful employment data points. These reports are helpful for incoming students to estimate their earnings potential upon graduation.  Further, they can also steer students with specific career interests to different schools.  Working experience is typically a requirement for most M.B.A. programs.  As such, in addition to paying for hefty tuition fees, M.B.A. students are also foregoing income stream.  Employment reports are must-read for students to perform a return on investment analysis before they make a commitment to the degree which typically lasts two years.  Based on my limited knowledge, similar employment reports are very spotty for other college programs.  For a given undergraduate major at a specific institution, it is generally difficult to find relevant employment statistics.  Some argue that M.B.A. programs disclose more employment data because the degree is more career oriented than others.  Self enlightenment, meeting potential mates and other worthy objectives are often cited as important reasons for attending colleges. However, one common objectives shared by many high school graduates pursuing college degree is to improve their employment prospect.  The pursuit of college degree is very expensive and one of the most important life decisions.  Therefore, it is extremely odd that the disclosure of “product data” in the college education market is so limited.  Almost all grocery items, regardless of price, provide detailed nutritional data!  In finance, an investment analysis would go through information available to size up any investment opportunities.  I would not suggest anyone doing any marginal cost/benefit analysis before consuming the next gram of chocolate, but gathering as much information, including employment statistics, should be a prerequisite before deciding on a college program.  A century ago, going to college was a luxury reserved for the elite.  Today, college education is becoming a commodity.  However, “consumer product” disclosure has not caught up.  To be fair, some states such as Virginia, is beginning to require universities to disclose more employment information.  The College Scorecard program, launched by the Obama administration, is an excellent data source verified by the U.S. Department of Education on thousands of institutions across the nation.   I hope this encouraging trend will continue.  Data and analysis does not eliminate all risk but it can at least allow people to understand risks and opportunities they are putting themselves into.

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