The Challenge of Measuring ROI and What Higher Education Can Do About It

By Dr. Kimberly Yousey-Elsener

A quick scan of internet searches on College Return on Investment (ROI) makes it clear that society and higher education are trying to understand the worth of a college degree. Headlines such as “Will That College Degree Pay Off?”, “College Tuition vs. Investing: Is It Worth It?” or “College Degree Return on Investment” are just a sample of what appears when searching this topic. Each of these articles examines ROI via a different lens but with one consistent measure – salary.

When measuring ROI using salary, the consensus is that higher education degrees are worth the investment. But reducing the ROI conversation to salary or earnings over time leaves higher education with little actionable data on how to increase ROI beyond funneling more graduates into higher-paying professions. In addition, it continues to use data that has limitations regarding equity gaps and disparity in pay scales based on profession. It also begs the question, if salary consistently proves the value of a higher education degree, why do we continue to question that value?

By Morgan Knutzen
Morgan Knutzen Associate Director, Career Readiness