The hefty price tag of a college degree has some experts worried that its benefits are fading.
"I think it makes less sense for more families than it did five years ago," says Richard Vedder, an economics professor at Ohio University who has been studying education issues. "It's become more and more problematic about whether people should be going to college."
That applies not just to astronomically priced private schools but to state schools as well, where tuitions have spiked. Student loans can postpone the pain of paying, but they come due when many young adults are at their most financially vulnerable, and default rates are high. Even community colleges, while helping some to keep costs down, prompt many to take out loans -- which can land them in severe credit trouble.
The unemployment rate among those with bachelor's degrees is at an all-time high. In 1970, when the overall unemployment rate was 4.9 percent, unemployment among college graduates was negligible, at 1.2 percent, Vedder says, citing figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. But this year, with the national rate of unemployment at 9.6 percent, unemployment for college graduates has risen to 4.9 percent -- more than half the rate of the general population. The bonus for those with degrees is "less pronounced than it used to be," Vedder says.
Across the region and around the country, parents are kissing their college-bound kids -- and potentially up to $200,000 in tuition, room and board -- goodbye.
Especially in the supremely well-educated Washington area, this is expected. It's a rite of passage, part of an orderly progression toward success.
Or is it . . . herd mentality?
Hear this, high achievers: If you crunch the numbers, some experts say, college is a bad investment.
"You've been fooled into thinking there's no other way for my kid to get a job . . . or learn critical thinking or make social connections," hedge fund manager James Altucher says.
Altucher, president of Formula Capital, says he sees people making bad investment decisions all the time -- and one of them is paying for college.
College is overrated, he says: In most cases, what you get out of it is not worth the money, and there are cheaper and better ways to get an education. Altucher says he's not planning to send his two daughters to college