What is “TuitionFit”?

There are lots of ways to assess a college fit. But today, growing uncertainty about whether a college degree will pay off has students and parents focused on good ole “bang for your buck.” Borrowing an old phrase from the world of finance, college search experts like to call it, “return on investment” (ROI, for short).

Although it might seem like a pretty simple idea, examining a college’s potential return on investment turns out to be complicated. In fact, there’s more than one kind of ROI to think about: short-term and long-term ROI. Though they might seem similar, the information you need to determine if a college delivers on both is quite different. And focusing on the short term without thinking about the long term? Not a good idea.

Think About the Next Step

Whether people focus on the first job starting salary or allow for a few years and a promotion or two, the basic idea of short-term ROI is pretty straightforward. The job a student gets after he or she graduates should pay enough for them to live independently, plan for the future, and pay off any student debt. When people bungle the short-term ROI, it’s not because their college’s career services screwed up. Rather, it’s because they chose to pay premium prices at a brand-name college, then majored in a field that doesn’t pay all that well right out of the gate.

What’s the best way to avoid this trap?

  • First, set a college price cap based on a conservative assessment of what early-career salaries are likely to be (you can find useful data at Payscale,Glassdoor, or the US Bureau of Labor Statistics)
  • Second, ONLY look at colleges that fit that price range

(If you’re wondering how to find a list of colleges based on a price range, that is exactly what the free version of TuitionFit provides).

Prepare for the Unexpected

Although it’s important to get the short-term ROI calculation right, getting the long-term ROI right turns out to be far more consequential. Because life just ain’t a straight line. Professions disappear, passions change, and sometimes life just throws you an ugly curveball. And it’s in those moments when some people’s investment in a college degree turns out to be entirely useless, while for others what they learned in college is precisely what helps them survive, and sometimes even thrive, in the face of stark uncertainty.

Long-term ROI goes a lot deeper than just earning a degree. Strong results here are really a function of a broader learning environment. Many of the critical skills and traits required to survive life’s ups and downs come from experiences outside the classroom. What skills and traits are we talking about? Things like:

  • Resourcefulness
  • Grit
  • Adaptability
  • Dependability
  • Empathy

These are the attributes that allow a person to navigate ambiguity when things aren’t going as planned.

Unfortunately, not all colleges prioritize this kind of learning. So determining whether a college produces a strong long-term ROI means that prospective students and parents will have to dig a little bit.

Start by Asking These Key Questions

  • Does the college prioritize “having fun” or learning and growth in its promo media?
  • Do current students talk about developing skills through out-of-class experiences?
  • Are offices and organizations for student support located in prominent places?
  • Can the college talk about how co-curricular programs contribute to student learning?
  • Are co-curricular experiences integrated into curricular requirements or programs?

Answer these questions and the long-term ROI prospects of a college will come into view pretty quickly. Because providing students with the skills and traits to maximize long-term ROI doesn’t happen unless a college invests in the kinds of experiences that directly impact student growth.

So How Does One Find TuitionFit?

Look for colleges that produce short-term AND long-term ROI.  Build a list of colleges where the price they will charge won’t dwarf early career earnings.  Then, among the colleges on that list, find the ones that prioritize student learning and growth throughout the co-curricular experience. 

What happens when a student or a family takes this approach to the college search?  They end up with a final set of college options where every one of them is a great choice.

The double ROI jackpot.

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