The Value of Education

An older (Oct 2010) study in the Wall Street Journal discusses the value of education.  Is it quantifiable?  Recently, Texas A&M underwent a fiscal evaluation that attempted to prove just that.  Each of the professors at the school were audited along the lines of how much money they brought to the school (research grants, student numbers, and tuition received) versus how much they costed the school (salary, etc).  Some of the professors did extremely well; others not so much.

The university even broke down profitability by department, and the results were somewhat surprising.

Image and data courtesy of WSJ.

It\’s not surprising that chemistry rated so high.  However, it might be surprising to some of us in the humanities that History and English were both higher than the \”hard sciences\” of Physics or Aerospace Engineering. (That should prove to some people the value of these things!) These sorts of studies are certainly enlightening, but some wonder about the danger that it might create.

This new emphasis has raised hackles in academia. Some professors express deep concern that the focus on serving student \”customers\” and delivering value to taxpayers will turn public colleges into factories. They worry that it will upend the essential nature of a university, where the Milton scholar who teaches a senior seminar to five English majors is valued as much as the engineering professor who lands a million-dollar research grant.

Certainly in cash-strapped times like this, comparisons will be drawn and laws made (such as the one in Texas, mentioned in the article). However, how do you place a number on \”value\” rather than simple \”profitability\”?  There is no doubt that a new, non-combustion engine would affect the world in far more immediate and concrete ways than the translation of an otherwise unknown legal tablet from Summer. But, the value of the arts in relation to the sciences is far less linear than some might want us to believe.  There is no price on culture.  If the world were going to experience some cataclysmic event, people would be just as worried about protecting the Mona Lisa, the Gilgamesh Epic, the Bible, and Shakespeare as they would about protecting the theorems of science.

What did you think about the article?

(Thanks to Nathan Collier for pointing out this article.)

Published by Jared Saltz

Biblical Studies Faculty (Florida College). PhD candidate at HUC-JIR. Husband, father, student.

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