Drew Gilpin Faust tells NYT readers: Don’t Judge a College’s Value by Graduates’ Paycheck

Historians in the News
tags: Harvard

Re “Scorecard for Colleges Needs Work, Experts Say” (news article, Feb. 14):

The focus in federal policy making and rhetoric on earnings data as the indicator of the value of higher education will further the growing perception that a college degree should be simply a ticket to a first job, rather than a passport to a lifetime of citizenship, opportunity, growth and change.
I graduated from Bryn Mawr College in 1968, and my first job was working for the Department of Housing and Urban Development. My starting salary was low, but I was inspired by the civil rights movement and the War on Poverty to regard public service as an important calling. I went on to graduate school, joined the faculty at the University of Pennsylvania and ultimately became the president of Harvard University. Should Bryn Mawr have been judged based on what I was paid in my first year at HUD?
When I speak with students today, I encourage them to pursue those interests that enable them to make their particular contribution to the world. A graduate working to begin a start-up or one pursuing a career in the creative arts would likely not score high on the proposed federal scale of educational worth. Nor would the nearly 20 percent of our graduates who each year apply to Teach for America and numerous other teacher-residency programs.
Making college more affordable for students and families is a fundamental goal that we in higher education are dedicated to support. When we decide what to measure, we signal what counts. Equating the value of education with the size of a first paycheck badly distorts broader principles and commitments essential to our society and our future.
President, Harvard University
Cambridge, Mass., Feb. 15, 2013

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