March 5, 2021

Economic Scene: Dropping Out of College, and Paying the Price

And yet Mr. Beltrán says he probably wouldn’t have gone to college full time if he hadn’t received a Pell grant and financial aid from New York State to defray the costs. He has also heard too many stories about people struggling under an unbearable burden of student loans to even consider going into debt. “Honestly, I don’t think I would have gone,” he said. “I couldn’t have done four years.”

And that would have been the wrong decision.

His reasoning is not unusual. The rising cost of college looms like an insurmountable obstacle for many low-income Americans hoping to get a higher education. The notion of a college education becoming a financial albatross around the neck of the nation’s youth is a growing meme across the culture. Some education experts now advise high school graduates that a college education may not be such a good investment after all. “Sticker price matters a lot,” said Lawrence Katz, a professor of Harvard University. “It is a deterrent.”

College graduation rates in the United States are continuing to slip behind, according to a report published on Tuesday by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, failing to keep pace with other advanced nations.

In 2000, 38 percent of Americans age 25 to 34 had a degree from a community college or a four-year institution, putting the nation in fourth place among its peers in the O.E.C.D. By 2011, the graduation rate had inched up to 43 percent, but the nation’s ranking had slipped to 11th place.

This from perhaps the first nation to try mass college education, graduating more students from college than anybody else. Graduation rates in the United States among 55- to 64-year-olds are higher than in any industrial country except Canada and Israel — reflecting the nation’s head start.

What’s most troubling, perhaps, is that Americans are actually enrolling in college and then dropping out halfway through — when they’ve probably already incurred a bunch of debt and won’t benefit from the better job prospects that come with a degree.

More than 70 percent of Americans matriculate at a four-year college — the seventh-highest rate among 23 developed nations for which the O.E.C.D. compiles such statistics. But less than two-thirds end up graduating. Including community colleges, the graduation rate drops to 53 percent. Only Hungary does worse.

And the most perplexing part of this accounting is that regardless of cost, getting a degree is the best financial decision a young American can make.

According to the O.E.C.D.’s report, a college degree is worth $365,000 for the average American man after subtracting all its direct and indirect costs over a lifetime. For women — who still tend to earn less than men — it’s worth $185,000.

College graduates have higher employment rates and make more money. According to the O.E.C.D., a typical graduate from a four-year college earns 84 percent more than a high school graduate. A graduate from a community college makes 16 percent more.

A college education is more profitable in the United States than in pretty much every other advanced nation. Only Irish women get more for the investment: $185,960 net.

What’s to be done?

Democratizing higher education is an urgent challenge. A study published Wednesday by the Hamilton Project at the Brookings Institution in Washington underscores how inequities in education are hampering social and economic mobility, contributing to entrenched income inequality.

The study points out that half of Americans in the top fourth of the income distribution have a college degree. Among the poorest fourth of Americans, fewer than one in 10 graduated from college. And the gap is growing. The college graduation rate of high-income Americans born in the 1980s was 20 percentage points higher than in the 1960s. Among low-income Americans, it advanced only 4 percent.

Every year federal, state and municipal governments spend a total of more than $9,200 per student in college, the O.E.C.D. estimates. Perhaps they could do more. According to the O.E.C.D., they make a profit of $231,000 on each American who graduates from college — mostly through higher income taxes and lower unemployment payments.

Increasing financial aid can increase the odds of keeping a student in college. But it can be expensive and not very cost-effective. Some students getting aid wouldn’t graduate anyway, and others would have graduated without it.

E-mail: eporter@nytimes.com; Twitter: @portereduardo

Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/26/business/economy/dropping-out-of-college-and-paying-the-price.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

Ping: Feel Like a Wallflower? Maybe It’s Your Facebook Wall

As the alerts came in, my mind began to race. Three friends, I learned, had arrived at a music venue near my apartment. But why? What was happening there? Then I saw pictures of other friends enjoying fancy milkshakes at a trendy restaurant. Suddenly, my simple domestic pleasures paled in comparison with the things I could be doing.

The flurry of possibilities set off a rush of restlessness and indecision. I was torn between nesting in my cozy roost or rallying for an impromptu rendezvous, and I just didn’t know what to do.

My problem is emblematic of the digital era. It’s known as FOMO, or “fear of missing out,” and refers to the blend of anxiety, inadequacy and irritation that can flare up while skimming social media like Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare and Instagram. Billions of Twitter messages, status updates and photographs provide thrilling glimpses of the daily lives and activities of friends, “frenemies,” co-workers and peers.

The upside is immeasurable. Viewing postings from my friends scattered around the country often makes me feel more connected to them, not less. News and photographs of the bike rides, concerts, dinner parties and nights on the town enjoyed by people in my New York social circle are invaluable as an informal to-do list of local recommendation.

But, occasionally, there is a darker side.

When we scroll through pictures and status updates, the worry that tugs at the corners of our minds is set off by the fear of regret, according to Dan Ariely, author of “Predictably Irrational” and a professor of psychology and behavioral economics at Duke University. He says we become afraid that we’ve made the wrong decision about how to spend our time.

Streaming social media have an immediacy that is very different from, say, a conversation over lunch recounting the events of the previous weekend. When you see that your friends are sharing a bottle of wine without you — and at that very moment — “you can imagine how things could be different,” Professor Ariely said.

It’s like a near miss in real life. “When would you be more upset?” he asked. “After missing your flight by two minutes or two hours?

“Two minutes, of course,” he said. “You can imagine how things could have been different, and that really motivates us to behave in strange ways.”

Fear of missing out does not apply only to those with a hyperactive nightlife.

A friend who works in advertising told me that she felt fine about her life — until she opened Facebook. “Then I’m thinking, ‘I am 28, with three roommates, and oh, it looks like you have a precious baby and a mortgage,’ ” she said. “And then I wanna die.”

On those occasions, she said, her knee-jerk reaction is often to post an account of a cool thing she has done, or to upload a particularly fun picture from her weekend. This may make her feel better — but it can generate FOMO in another unsuspecting person.

Caterina Fake, co-founder of Flickr, the photo-sharing service, and of Hunch, a recommendation engine, said, “Social software is both the creator and the cure of FOMO,” adding, “It’s cyclical.”

Some creators of social apps say they have constructed their services to make people keep coming back for more, but not for any insidious purpose.

“No one likes to perform in a vacuum,” said Kevin Systrom, the chief executive of Instagram, a mobile photo-sharing application, which allows users to make comments about pictures. The more creative or striking a photograph, the more likely it is to attract favorable attention.

The feedback, Mr. Systrom said, can be slightly addictive. People using Instagram “are rewarded when someone likes it and you keep coming back,” he said.

Whatever angst people may feel when they see someone else having a good time, he said, is probably exaggerated by the overall effect of so many new social data streams pouring into browsers and mobile phones at once.

“We aren’t used to seeing the world as it happens,” he said. “We as humans can only process so much data.”

Of course, fear of missing out is hardly new. It has been induced throughout history by such triggers as newspaper society pages, party pictures and annual holiday letters — and e-mail — depicting people at their festive best. But now, Ms. Fake said, instead of receiving occasional polite updates, we get reminders around the clock, mainlined via the device of our choosing.

SHERRY TURKLE, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and author of “Alone Together,” says that as technology becomes ever more pervasive, our relationship to it becomes more intimate, granting it the power to influence decisions, moods and emotions.

“In a way, there’s an immaturity to our relationship with technology,” she said. “It’s still evolving.”

We are struggling with the always-on feeling of connection that the Internet can provide, she said, and we still need to figure out how to limit its influence on our lives. I asked Professor Turkle what people could do to deal with this stress-inducing quandary. She said she would tell herself to “get a grip and separate myself from my iPhone.”

Easier said than done. I’ve tried, but turning off my phone is nearly impossible — I’m not yet ready for that step.

That evening, though, I flipped the phone over to hide its screen. That helped me ignore what my friends were doing. I settled back to enjoy the evening, deciding not to venture out into the cold and misty night.  

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=29d90a62763fca155bd2caa64be3be7a