The Transparency of Higher Ed's Value

Monday, February 7, 2022 - New York Times financial columnist and author Ron Lieber joins Future U. to continue the discussion on value and how colleges can better answer the question: Are they worth it?

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Michael Horn:

Jeff, as we continue to dig into the questions that an increasing number of people have about college, namely, is it worth it? And what is its value? An incredibly important part of that equation is the price that a student pays.

Jeff Selingo:

Yes, Michael. Although that sounds like a simple question it's anything but. And to help us understand the value of college and just how much of a black box the whole pricing of college is these days, today we're welcoming Ron Leiber, who has been a money columnist for The New York Times since 2008. And he is the author or co-author of five books, including his latest, The Price You Pay for College.


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Jeff Selingo:

I'm Jeff Selingo.

Michael Horn:

And I'm Michael Horn. The value of college is a topic that we both think a lot about, Jeff. On our last episode of Future U, we've spoke with Karen Stout and Ed Smith-Lewis about value. A view both of them expressed was the need to broaden the definition of value beyond just the return on investment question. But as we both know, a huge reason so many people are focused on the ROI question, isn't just because there's relatively more data available on it. It's also because the price of college itself has continued to soar.

Jeff Selingo:

No doubt Michael. Price is a huge part of the value equation. So today's guest Ron Lieber, will help us better understand that. Along with the question of how do you get value out of college? He's a columnist for the New York Times, and he thinks nonstop about how to help people manage their money.

And for many families, college is a big ticket item. So it's a topic Ron has thought a lot about. Of the five books he's worked on, he's written directly or indirectly about college a couple of times. First with a book about gap years called Taking Time Off, and most recently with a book directly on the topic of today's show called The Price You Pay for College. It's great to have you with us Ron. Welcome to Future U.

Ron Lieber:

Oh, it's a pleasure. Thanks for having me.

Jeff Selingo:

So Ron. Before we dive into questions about the value of higher ed, I want to start with your book. You've been writing about, the price of college, and financial aid as part of your New York Times column for years among the many personal finance issues you tackle. So why this book right now? Of everything you write about that could be a book, what was the motivation for a book about paying for college? And given that you worked on this book over several years, did the sense of that why change over time?

Ron Lieber:

So my beat is beating the system. I'm just trying to help readers navigate complex financial systems that involve large amounts of money, where an above average number of emotions are involved and could potentially lead you astray. So when you think about saving and paying for college, it's literally the first thing on the list if you've got kids.

Moreover, finance is personal. I have a 16-year-old, I've got a six-year-old. We're about to start running the gauntlet ourselves. And I was just hearing from all sorts of readers how to figure out whether Cornell at $300,000 was better than Northeastern with a merit aid discount down to 200, versus the UMass Honors program at a 100 grand. And they were like, "Ron, how come you're not explaining this?" And it's because I didn't know the answer. And it turns out, nobody knows the answer because as you all know, there's not a lot of good data on this stuff. So I spent years trying to sort it out. And that's why I wrote the book.

Jeff Selingo:

And do you feel like you accomplished that?

Ron Lieber:

I feel like I came out of this process with a set of really good and highly original and extremely pointed questions to ask if these institutions. Not everybody will need every question, but all of them are important for certain kinds of families.

Moreover, I came out of the process, I'd say pretty close to radicalized at this point, about the lack of transparency and predictability around pricing in this industry. We deserve and we should feel entitled to way information, not just about the product that these institutions deliver, but what on earth we'll actually pay within six figures over four years on the front ed.

Michael Horn:

So that speaks perfectly to the opacity that people face when they're trying to figure out the college process and the price. And we talk often on the show about sort of the other side out of it, which is about how those who work in higher ed are sometimes blind to how the rest of the world perceives them, sort of this ivory tower effect.

So much of the admissions and financial aid, is filled with a language all its own. There's acronyms, rules and lingo that those who work at universities, they seem to think everyone knows. And yet those same individuals at least it feels to us are often blind to the experience that parents and students themselves have with colleges. And so I'm curious what frustrates you the most about what the people in higher ed don't know or don't understand about the price people pay for college or the overall financing process itself?

Ron Lieber:

I'm actually a little bit more understanding than you may be or than that question might imply. Because I understand and I know you do too, that everybody's got a boss. And everybody who works in this industry inherited a set of structures, and a set of strategies, and a set of software, that they did not ask for and would change if they could.

But when you think about how hard it is to turn a battleship around. We all can count on one hand, the number of institutions that have radically changed what they stand for or how rejective they are in the course of a generation. We could count on one hand the number of institutions that have managed to get rid of merit aid. It's just not that easy to do this. And your job is on the line. If you get it wrong by 15%, and there's a bunch of empty beds.

Michael Horn:

Let's start to transition then into thinking about the value equation, right? So we recently did this episode on value with a former community college president and leader from the United Negro College Fund. And it was interesting how they define the value of higher ed, how they thought it should be measured and how they talked about how colleges can better communicate it to perspective students and their families.

But so much of the value of higher ed when we talk about it is reduced to dollars and cents. And given the cost of college and stagnant family incomes for most Americans, is framing the value around the job prospects and how much you make the ROI, if you will. The best way to think about value in your view or do you subscribe to a different take on this question?

Ron Lieber:

It is one way to think about value and the reason why so many people, including the colleges themselves default to it. Is because that is the best data we have. That data itself is not perfect it's probably not close to perfect. As I know you've discussed on the podcast before. But it's sort of all we have we don't have a very much on the return on friendship. We don't know so much about the return on intellectual engagement. We don't know anything about how happy or unhappy these places make any given average undergraduate or the collective as measured by how they feel about the place. Reigning in on a scale of one to 10 overall five or 10 or 25 years out.

It is astounding at this price that we do not have this data, but we don't have the data because the institutions like it that way. Because in the absence of data, we make decisions on the basis of feelings, fear, and guilt and snobbery and almost always those feelings cause to sped more rather than less. So there is no institutional reason, no strategic reason for these colleges to fix this. And we know they could, they have genius institutional researchers. They have all of the statistical and academic expertise at their disposal in the collection of professors that are around. And the fact that we don't have any data or any more data is because they want it that way.

Jeff Selingo:

So Ron, let's continue on this ROI piece for a minute. Because when I posted to twitter that we are going to have you on and said, any questions you want to ask? Somebody asked this question, which I thought was really good. And they said, "Value is often about whether or not a college prepares and launches you into a career. How can families peel back the marketing pitch to really know how effective colleges are at this?"

Because as you well know, every college out there says 90 plus percent of our students go on to a job or graduate school, six months after graduation. I don't think I've ever seen a number below 90%. So how can we pull back that marketing and really know how well they prepare students for jobs?

Ron Lieber:

I mean, let me just tell you about some of the things that I saw when I ran laps of America reporting the book, the thing that most stuck out to me was a conversation that I had at Macalester College is Saint Paul, Minnesota with the direct of career services there. And she said to me, "Any college shopper has the right to walk into this office and asked me to hand over the first destination survey."

A lot of people who work in these schools don't even know what that thing is, let alone parents. So I made sure to write about it in the book, what the first destination survey is just what it sounds right. Where did all of these graduating seniors up 12 months later? And forget about the quantitative element of it. We know that the econ majors are earning more than the psych major. That's no surprise to anyone. It's the what, that I think that is crucial, because small liberal arts colleges have gotten a bad name for no good reason. Well, that's not true.

Small liberal arts colleges have gotten a bad name, for some good reasons for not properly preparing people for the workforce to come. And I don't think they deserve that bad of a wrap, but you have every right when you are shopping for something that might cost $350,000 to walk into the career services office and say, "Hey, could you please hand this over?" Right? And you should be able to find out, all right? Of the 12 religion majors. Because my kid is a believer and really wants to go deep on Christianity or Hinduism or whatever it is. My kid's going to be a religion major look, there were nine religion majors last year.

What are they all doing now? And maybe we can find out how much they earn or maybe that's kept private. But we know what kind of trajectory they're on. Bates College understood the present literally said to me, "Oh yeah, the more rejective the school, the worse the career services office is." And she didn't want to stand for that. So she blew the whole thing to smithereens and started over with this idea of purposeful work. They did a bunch of research with Gallup, figured out that what people want more than anything is a job that makes them feel like they have a purpose in the world. So they rebuilt their career offices around that.

Butler University assigns every single person in the undergraduate business school, a mentor, they pay the mentors from local business people in the communities. So the question I'd ask is, what specifically are you doing over there at small, liberal arts college, or the english department big university, to help my undecided completely and appropriately clueless child at 18, get to 22 and have a decent sense of what they want to do with themselves?

There isn't a single right answer. But if the schools are sort of bumbling around and saying things that are generic, then turn and walk and find a school that answers it differently.

Jeff Selingo:

So I want to know if you could help me out with something here Ron. We're both on the lecture circuit talking about our books. And here's a question I get often, parent or a student or a counselor will say something to the effect of everyone tells us to look beyond the rankings of schools, but there are hundreds, thousands of colleges out there. So how do we figure out which ones are worth it, if we're not looking at the rankings? How do you find those hidden gems?

Ron Lieber:

The whole process of discovery is deeply flawed in communities of above average incomes. Certain schools become popular and then sort of stay popular. And kids just flock on a well worn pipeline to them. And you're considered somehow aberrant, if you're looking someplace else, that's a thousand or 1,500 miles away.

In fact, at a time when it's getting ever harder to get into these places or at least the rejection rates are going up. It actually behooves you to go off the beaten path. But then the question becomes well, how do you find it. And I'm a big believer that the college visit process should start sophomore year, not junior year. A lot of college counselors hate it. When I say that, because why speed up a stressful process and create more work for the counselors? I feel you.

But the fact of the matter is. This stuff is already in the air anyway, at most semi-competitive schools. And the earlier you start, if you can afford it to go do the visits, the better sense that you'll have just in sophomore year, like how does big versus small feel? How does pre-professional feel versus liberal arts? Public versus private, single sex are not. And by junior year, you have a better sense of where you think your head is at.

Then you can look at couple dozen schools, just like the ones that you think will work for you. So the visit process part of it. But there are also some questions around like figuring out what exactly you going to school for in the first place. To me that's the biggest part of the value equation that people miss entirely.

What is college anyway? This is not meant to be some kind of existential rhetorical question. College can be basically one of three things, right? It can be a place for learning to have your brain rearranged by expert teachers. It can be a place where you find kinship, right? The people who will hoist you on their shoulders and carry you through life, whether it is your friends or your teachers and mentors, and it's a place to get a credential.

And maybe that credential vaults you into the middle class permanently, or maybe that credential is the undergraduate degree from the university of Pennsylvania at the Wharton school, that allows you to get hired on wall street because the snobs at Goldman Sachs do not recruit at the university of Wisconsin at Madison. So if you're some kid from Whitefish bay Wisconsin, and the parents are trying to figure out whether to sped up by $200,000 for Penn versus Madison or even Northwestern, right?

Those are the sort of things you need to think about. If the 18 year old wants nothing else but to work on wall street. Then there's value in that extra 200K to kind of take your shot. But if you don't know what you're going to school for, then it's sort of hard not just to figure out what to pay, but where to even look in the first place.

Michael Horn:

I love that why question up front. And I'm just sort of curious, it raises a bunch of the things that you've said around the opacity, the historical structures of colleges, the software, the processes, all those things in place. I'm just sort of curious a magic wand question. If you could wave a magic wand and transform any one thing that would shift more power to consumers in this process, what would that be and Why?

Ron Lieber:

Upfront predictable pricing. I have said more than once both in my book and in the New York times. That I cannot see any great reason other than staffing. And I get that admissions offices are more understaffed than anything else right now. But given the potential price of this purchase, I feel like they owe us a price in advance. And that they're going to continue to rely on these so called marinade pricing models where discounts happen according to your prowess, but also let's face it your zip code.

The fact that the pricing may change may swing by live literally six figures, between when you pay them money to apply, but don't get the price until the other ed. Particularly if you're shopping for merit aid. That's a real problem. It doesn't make any sense what normal functioning economic industry or service actually operates this way. Let me add answer to that for you. The answer is none of them.

So the fact that this continues to go on in undergraduate higher education is deeply problematic. And if these institutions are wondering why there is a lack of trust or skepticism. I think there's a big part of the answer there.

Michael Horn:

So Let's switch gears just a little bit, but stay on this general strand because there was recently another one of these lawsuits against selective schools in their admissions office. This one was focused on alleged financial aid collusion, and suggested that certain schools, Penn Vanderbilt for example, didn't actually follow need blind admissions. What's your take on the lawsuit and both its merits, but basically what they're actually saying here?

Ron Lieber:

Rarely do these kinds of things end up in open court. A lot of really good information was flushed out of the Harvard discrimination admission suit. I don't think that's going to happen here, but what I would really like to see is a sort of semi-public debate. About whether if you give preference to the children of rich donors, whether that violates need blind, because you are admitting kids based on the ability to pay. Right? With the emphasis on ability.

So I think that would be fascinating. But if you're going to take a really cynical view of this. It's just a bunch of lawyers who are auditioning for what I think would be way more lucrative, settlements or judgments in other parts of the world. If you want to be less cynical I think the other possibilities that these are deeply principled people. I think one of the lawyers is the former of prosecutor and varsity blues.

My guess is that he had all sorts of incidental findings during the course of hammering away at those colleges. My guess is that he's really mad about some stuff that he saw. And this may just be his punk rock attempt to get a bunch of schools to do away with legacy preference or change their policies, so that the mosquito in the form of him, sort of goes away and finds somebody else to.

Jeff Selingo:

So Ron, I totally agree with you on the discovery process of this lawsuit, where to go forward. But as you know, these colleges will fight tooth and nail, so that won't happen.

So as we wrap up that last answer, I think speaks volumes to what more and more of the public is curious about. Can these sky high prices at colleges continue? Our colleges immune from the laws of supply and demand. Sometimes people talk about there being a tuition bubble in higher ed or ask if there will be some big consolidation to come in certain quarters of higher education. You wrote about the tuition bubble question in the book specifically. So what's your take?

Ron Lieber:

I think the answer to your question is, yes it can continue. It probably will. And it will for two reasons, there's a money reason and a feelings reason.

The money reason is that because of inequality, there are actually more people, not fewer, slightly more but more who can actually afford to pay these prices. I'm going to forget his name, but it's the demographer at Carleton college, who's done a bunch of great work around the Democrat-

Jeff Selingo:

Yeah. Nathan GRA.

Ron Lieber:

Exactly. So this was a kind of an ancillary finding in his last book, but I highlighted it five times and thought, wow, for the couple hundred, most rejective schools in the country, parents who think that there's going to be some kind of bubble that pops or that the demand's going to fall have got another thing coming.

And then there's the feelings reason. The thing that it is unique about this particular service offering that makes it different from nearly every other product or service on the planet is that, it involves our children in a way that we consider to be absolutely essential. It is the rocket launcher. It is the jumping off point. It is the catapult, or it is the thing that can cause our generation to be the first to raise kids who do not do better than their parents. Right?

And because we're all wrapped up with the idea of upward mobility as destiny and as entitlement. Enough of us will you whatever we can, to pay whatever we need, to give our kids what they want and what we think they need, that I think it will continue to support prices like this. We're going to see a $100,000 in the next 10 years and it could go higher.

Jeff Selingo:

Well, Ron, thank you so much for being on Future U. It was great to chat with you about this important topic and we'll be right back after this break.


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Michael Horn:

Welcome back to Future U of and entertaining conversation with Ron Leiber of the New York times. Jeff, I love his style, his bluntness and his cynicism. But I'll also say that after he said he's become radicalized. I wasn't then prepared for him to empathize with those who work in higher ed institutions.

I will admit that, that was a twist for me. But I actually think his point is right because battleships as he said are awfully hard to turn around. As my mentor clay Christensen used to say, "People don't act dumb because they're dumb people. They're just stuck in organizations that compel them to do dumb things." And in the case of higher ed, as Ron said "You have some of the smartest people in the world working in these institutions."

But before I fire some questions at you. I'd love to double down on one point that he made, because I think the reason battleships are so tough to turn around or colleges in this case, is because they're designed to do what they do and they execute on that really well. But by definition, that means they don't do other things well.

And just to geek out on it for a moment. An organization in my mind is essentially made up of four elements. You've got your value proposition. You start there, what you want to do for these stakeholders that you serve. And then to deliver on that you assemble resources, professors, buildings, curriculum, things like that. And then you got processes, ways of teaching, ways of scheduling, things like that, ways of admitting students. And then you have a revenue formula, which you got to bring in to deliver on the processes, resources to deliver on that value prop.

And the interesting thing Jeff is. You go around that cycle a couple times and very quickly the elements of an organization become interdepedent and locked. And so it's really hard to put in a new idea that doesn't fit these four boxes if you will. And an organization will either just rejected or sort of twist and morph it to meet the needs of the organization, rather than perhaps the needs in this case of students.

It almost takes a life of its own. And that gets into my question for you Jeff which is. Ron talked a lot about how the process and the price of admissions and so forth is opaque. And he said, "Colleges actually want it that way." That's a point. I know you've made a lot as well.

And of course, I asked him to wave his magic wand of anything he could change, but I want you to forget about the magic wand and what I'm curious is like, what will it take for colleges to really change and become more transparent? Because it seems to me in line with the model, I just laid out institutions will continually just act out the self-interest of their organizations unless they're forced to change somehow. And so college athletes weren't able to make money until there was a Supreme court ruling. So what will it take here? And will it ever happen in your mind?

Jeff Selingo:

I'm skeptical about whether it really happen, because as you say, the system was designed to work this way, it wasn't designed to be opaque. Colleges don't want it to be opaque. They like that. The system, not only of admissions, but financial aid is not transparent because the more transparency there is, the more questions about their policies. And people are always going to find that one kid who got more financial aid than another kid, and they would say, but colleges, you say you're doing it this way. And you're really not.

In some ways the basis of the lawsuit against the ultra elites that we were talking to Ron a little bit about is that people always find reason. The more colleges are train transparent to say that they're not following their policies. And so colleges love the fact that it is a black box and they're kind of allowed to do whatever they want to.

And I think when the feds do step in and they have stepped in recent years for example, requiring a net price calculator on the front ed, where the college score card, which is looking at outcomes on the back ed. And that's putting more information in the hands of consumers, but it really hasn't changed college policies in any way. It hasn't meant that colleges are more upfront about the cost of college or how much you're going to pay. Now that there's a net price calculator, and it hasn't necessarily changed the ROI of higher education. Now that colleges have to report this information to the federal government, or now that the federal government is showing that to consumers.

I'm really skeptical about this. In many ways I think what might force this is really the market. I think the haves, meaning the elite colleges are going to kind of always be able to do what they want to do because they have so much money and there's so much demand for their product.

But I think in terms of the have nots, which is the vast majority of higher education that has to discount their tuition, that is desperate in some cases to fill their classes. They're going to be forced to do things differently in the next decade. And I often and compare higher education these days to the airlines, because I've been traveling a lot lately and it hasn't been easy at all.

And I think that airlines over the years have been forced to change because of new entrance, where think about what Southwest or what the low cost airlines forced the legacy carriers to do. Suddenly the legacy carriers were forced to not serve meals, and no more Saturday night stay overs on their airfares and things like that. They were forced to do things differently because of new players.

And I think in many ways, the same thing is going to happen in higher ed. Around the edges you're going to see the have nots come up with new pricing models.

I don't know exactly what those are yet. And hopefully we'll discuss that in a future episode, but they'll force other competitors to follow along. And then maybe eventually just like in the airlines, it'll move up market into more of the elites. But in this case, I think the elites given what they're selling are slightly different than the legacy carriers in airlines. But I think that we will start to see more transparency, more differences because the market will force it, not because of a core case or because of a federal regulation.

Michael Horn:

It's interesting when you bring up the point about the federal regs, because you're right. In some ways they've given the illusion of transparency, but they've really just reified sort of this emphasis on the average, as opposed to what the individual is going to pay up front.

I want to stay on this for one more beat Jeff, because he said something interesting about how liberal arts colleges in effect don't have to have as bad a reputation as they do around preparing people for jobs.

And I think that's a sentiment that I've heard you share. But Ron made this comment in relation to, that people should ask to see this first destination survey that college does. And I'll confess Ron was the first person I've heard that from. But its presence suggests that maybe the reputation damage liberal arts colleges have been inflicted with doesn't have to be as bad as it is because maybe they have an incentive to make price or outcomes more transparent upfront.

Do you think that's the case or do they fall in this sort of elite or as Ron called it, the rejective institution bucket where yeah. They're taking a bit of a reputation will hit, but they don't really need to become more transparent?

Jeff Selingo:

I wish that they didn't have as much hubris about their model as they do. So often you'll hear particularly from presidents of liberal arts colleges that, "We're preparing students for their fifth job, not their first." Well, that may sound good on the surface, but if you're a tuition paying parent or tuition paying student. All you want to know is "Okay, that's all fine and good, but I have to get to my fifth job. So what are those first four jobs that you're getting me?"

And the first destination survey, I think shows that, that in some cases it's maybe not as bad as we think it is, or it is a stepping stone to that fifth job, which is going to be really successful. But I think colleges need to be more transparent about that. Liberal arts colleges really preparing students for.

And yes, it is that fifth job, but what are those first four jobs and why your flavor of education is better suited leading to ultimate success in life? There's something that Carol Quillen who's the outgoing president of Davidson has said before about liberal arts colleges is that she talks a lot about the skill sets that students get in colleges. And again, it's something else that a lot of liberal arts colleges talk about, the idea of teamwork and communication.

Carol talks a lot about it in terms of helping students problem solve and get stuff done. In fact, I think that's an actual quote from her is that liberal arts colleges teach students how to live and work and get stuff done. Right. And it's why many of those students go on to successful professional careers as a result. But I think that's also a special flavor of liberal arts colleges like the Davidsons of the world, which ted to be more selective and more elite.

And again, I'm not quite sure, just like when I was talking to my previous answer about the haves and have nots, I think there are the haves among liberal arts colleges. And then there are the have nots among liberal arts is. And I think the have nots among liberal arts colleges can no longer coast on the reputation of the people above them in the rankings.

They have to start to think differently about their model and about being more transparent. Right? We've talked often Michael, about the need for example, of coming out of a liberal arts college with the very specific skills, it may be even an industry certified credential.

So why can't, for example, you graduate with a history degree from a liberal arts college and also have a certificate in data visualization, for example. That's the way I think that the have nots of liberal arts colleges could better prove their value and separate themselves out in a way from being bucketed together as a college that doesn't necessarily provide you job skills.

Now again, I'm not quite sure the Davidsons of the world of the world need to do that, but I definitely think the vast majority of liberal arts colleges, because we're really talking about the top 10 top 15 of liberal arts colleges that I think could kind of get away with this idea of the fifth job thing.

But I don't think that's true for the vast majority of liberal arts colleges. And I think they're going to have to separate themselves by coming up with a slightly different model, a slightly different flavor of liberal arts, and then being very transparent about what that provides graduates in the marketplace.

Michael Horn:

Last thought on value that I want to pick your brain on. And perhaps naturally, because of my book choosing college, I gravitated to Ron's point on that students ought to clarify their why, if you will, for college much more upfront. Because, as we talked about in the last episode, you can't really define value unless you know what a student's trying to get out of it by enrolling. And that's actually a very important consideration in all these conversations.

And while I'd quibble with the three reasons someone might attend college that run throughout based on my research in choosing college, I think that it was very supply side focused from what an institution thinks it's doing for students, not necessarily how students would talk about it. But I think his primary point is spot on that students need to identify their why much earlier on as they're going into college.

But the question I want to ask you because you've done so much reporting on the admissions process for your own most recent book. Is I'm curious what you think of his answer, that the college visit process should start even say sophomore year, which I know a lot of people would be screaming and saying, "Please, no, don't do that." So what was your reaction to that answers. Is that a good idea?

Jeff Selingo:

I do think it is depending on what we describe or how we define the college search. I've always told students the advice I give them is, before you start putting names on a piece of paper, because when we think of the college search, that's the first thing people start doing. They start listing names on a piece of paper, or in a google doc or whatever it might be. And that's the beginning of their college search.

Really what you need to do is as. A fried of mine, Rick Clark, who's written some great books with the co-author Brennan Barnard. One of the things they talk out in their books is, try to figure out what you want out of college first. Figure out the why of college rather than the what or the actual location. And I think that's something that could be done in sophomore year.

So I always encourage students. Look around within a couple hundred miles a home. There's probably many different types of colleges. You may not be interested in going to any of them, but there's probably a big public university near you. There's probably a small liberal arts college. There's probably an urban institution near you.

Go to these places and see if that's the type of place you want to go to. Do you want to go to a big public university or small liberal arts college? Do you want urban or rural? Like what of college do you want and what do you want to get out of the experience? These are all questions you should be asking your sophomore year and going to visit whether a Penn state or a university of Maryland. I live 10, 20 minutes from university of Maryland, whether that's on my list or not?

It doesn't matter because if I go to the university of Maryland, it's probably a little bit more urban than a lot of big public flagships are, compared to like a Penn state or something like that in the middle of nowhere. At least you get a sense of what that type of campus is like. And that I think helps narrow the search your junior year, when you actually start putting names to that piece of paper. When I think about the college search your sophomore year, that's how I'll I would define it.

Michael Horn:

And don't fear the turtle. I will say for those listening. As we wrap up here, we have a question from our audience and a reminder to submit those questions. Because if yours gets asked, we'll send you a nifty Future U branded tumbler.

And this question is from Melanie Wine Tolan the VP of Marketing and Communications at Roanoke College. And Jeff, she wrote, "Not surprisingly, CNBC recently reported that higher ed had a higher turnover rate last year than any other industry, including healthcare. What forward thinking trends are you seeing that keep great employees at great colleges and universities. And she adds the correlation to top-notch employees, faculty, and the value of an institution can certainly be made because it's a critical asset?"

So the question of staff, not just faculty is a question. You thought a lot about Jeff, but I'll just say upfront, I didn't know that higher ed had a higher turnover rate than any other industry. And it is striking to me in the midst of the great resignation. That's the case.

Because interestingly enough, despite all the stories about shortages of teachers at the K-12 level, were learning from the data that K12 schools, actually have had one of the lower turnover rates. Not all that different from what they had in an ordinary year. So I'm really curious your thoughts on her question.

Jeff Selingo:

It's a great point. And I think that so much of colleges around relationships, these are relationships with faculty, but also staff throughout the university, especially at a residential college. And yet we treat staff particularly, and even a lot of faculty not as talent at colleges and universities. We tend to think of colleges and universities as teaching institutions or as search institutions not as workplaces, but their workplaces.

And Michael as you know, from your work at Guild, increasingly, every sector of the economy is worried about their talent and developing that talent. And we don't do very much of that at the higher ed level. So in answering Melanie's question here is that I think what's important is that coming out of the pandemic? I think that colleges and universities should really start to think of themselves as workplaces.

That they should think about the people that work at that workplace as talent. And that's not just a handful of faculty, star faculty, but that talent is up and down the organization, especially those who have forward facing jobs that really interact with students on a regular basis.

And then how do we keep that talent? How do we make the workplace more flexible for them so that they don't have to be on campus every day? How do we think about compensation and benefits? And more so, and I guess this is where it gets into your work with Guild, is how do we help those individuals develop their own talents and up-skill and re-skill themselves? It's fascinating to me that universities are in the learning business, in the education business, but they do very little of it for their own employees.

Michael Horn:

That is a daunting, but I think a strong place to leave it for today's show. And I'll just say, thanks again to Ron Lieber, author of the book, The Price You Pay for College, for joining us, and we'll see you next time on Future U.

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