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Piling On: Bowdoin College and ROI

April 16th, 2013 · 1 Comment · Politics

The blogosphere has been roiling of late over a report titled What Does Bowdoin Teach? The 360-page document profiled in the WSJ makes the case that the Brunswick college has abandoned its historical “commitment to Western Civilization” and instead has focused on “reshaping America in the image of progressive politics.”

In my mind, a school that accepts only one in six applicants and charges 44 grand a year can’t be faulted for having a losing formula. If the right-wing embraces market acceptance as the ultimate test, there is no compelling reason for them to ask Bowdoin to revert to a different formula.

Regardless, high demand does not imply a wise investment.

I’ve been noodling around with the site College Risk Report — an online calculator designed to assist those evaluating the net long-term value of various colleges. Naturally, I could not resist seeing how Bowdoin stacks up. The results are not pretty. According to CRR, a liberal arts major would net a better return by standing pat with their high school diploma, and would net about 250K more by attending a local community college instead. See below.


Does political alignment appear to affect net return? What happens if we plug in a school that’s ranked number one for traditional conservative values? Using out of state tuition pricing, here is how Texas A&M stacks up:

Texas AM a

And with that bargain in-state pricing:

Texas AM b

While it’s probably tempting for some to view this as a win for the conservative mindset, note that Texas A&M dominates here largely due to the fact that its a less expensive school.


1 response so far ↓

  • 1 Steve Roth // Apr 22, 2013 at 11:10 am

    This is great! I always talk about a high-school grad who becomes an apprentice then journeyman plumber, compared to an average doctor. Takes the doctor a *long* time to catch up in net worth. (Though: the doctor can borrow based on future earnings, so lifestyle exceeds lifestyle *much* more quickly.)

    The bummer here is that Risk Report hasn’t implemented choices for CC majors; it’s all average. And you gotta figure CC students do much more “practical,” earnings-driven majors on average, compared to a liberal arts degree. And there’s no “average” option for four-year schools. So you can’t compare apples to apples here.

    But still: my impression from random reading here and there is that CCs are way underfunded in this country, not nearly enough available. (Obama has made *some* noise about changing that…) Partly because of liberal bias: “everyone should have the opportunity to go to four-year college.” But still, weird: wouldn’t the shortage of supply relative to demand mean that private folks would start up CCs and be able to charge more than public, make some money at it?

    Without going into all the cost/return “incidence” theory (ask and ye shall receive), it seems like public provision of education works out really well for pretty much all involved. Think: UC system when it was free, or the Scandanavian systems. Maybe the US state/public systems only work as well as they do *because* there’s also a world-rocking-good private system in the ecosystem (though even there, a huge chunk of government research support…). I doanno.

    And to add: I’ve talked to at least three CC profs in my day who love teaching in them, cause the students are really committed to learning.

    In any case, J, D, and I would have been much better off if they’d just taken average, practical, decent-paying jobs right out of high school. According to this site, we’ll never catch up with that.

    I probably should have made them do that, huh?

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