Is a college degree worth the time and cost? Here is an analysis of the results from Utah


Cory Britton doesn’t need a public policy institute report to fully appreciate the costs and benefits of a college education.

He knows what it’s like to try to make ends meet with dead-end jobs and the anxiety of not having health insurance. Britton also knows what it’s like to graduate from college with high honors with a bachelor’s degree in computer science, a degree in high demand in the workforce.

Is a college degree worth the time and cost?

Here’s a look at Britton’s experience.

“After graduation, only seven months and we have these benefits. We were able to buy a house that we love. My wife can work part time and spend more time with our children. Even with some uncertainty with my current employer, not once have we been concerned about unemployment, ”said Britton, who was in his 40s when he graduated from Weber State University in the spring. .

This does not mean that it was easy or that it can be done without significant financial investment.

A new report from the University of Utah’s Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute shows that average tuition fees at Utah’s public colleges and universities more than doubled from 2000 to 2020, from $ 2,283 to $ 5,306. Add to that the cost of accommodation, books, transportation and food.

Britton, a suburban student, said he and his wife, Karin, understood the cost of his degree would weigh on their family’s budget, but they chose to consider the long-term investment.

“We knew without a doubt that the long-term benefits of graduating would far outweigh the temporary discomfort,” he said.

Winny Britton, left, plays with her father, Cory, right, as her mother, Karin, holds her brother, Alexander, after posing for photos at their home in Riverton on Tuesday, April 27, 2021. Cory Britton, 37 , has a computer engineering degree from Weber State University.
Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

As tuition and fees have risen, the report found that the number of Utah students who received scholarships has also risen. In 2009, 34% of students in Utah’s higher education system received a grant, which rose to 42% in 2019.

“However, students who do not receive help still face much higher tuition fees,” the report says.

The report also shows that students bear a greater share of the funding of colleges and universities.

“In 2000, 72% of funding came from public credits, up from 50% in 2020. This drop in public investment is probably contributing to the increase in tuition and fees observed in recent decades, reflecting the increase in nationwide, ”the report says.

Utah’s eight technical colleges receive a significantly larger share of their funding through state tax funds.

In FY2020, the proportion was over 90% for all technical colleges, with Uintah Basin Technical College at 97%.

“These differences are partly due to differences in mission. Utah Technical Colleges focus on providing short-term, intensely placement-oriented training. Examples of programs include training to become a welder, electrician, truck driver, cosmetologist, nursing assistant or phlebotomist, ”the report says.

Utah tuition and fees remain lower than national averages. In a comparison of tuition and average fees for a four-year degree across 11 western states, Utah’s rates were among the lowest, ranked ninth. Only Nevada and Wyoming were lower.

And when Utah colleges and universities were compared to peer institutions in other states, average tuition fees were lower in Utah.

According to the report, about 80% of Utah high school graduates who pursue post-secondary education attend an institution in the state of Beehive, which means that tuition rates among institutions in the state are likely a factor more important than comparisons with other Western states.

The report notes that the state contributes significantly to Utah’s 16 public universities and colleges, which include eight technical colleges.

“Sixteen percent ($ 1.3 billion) of state funds went to higher education in Utah’s fiscal 2020 budget. While these investments are substantial, previous USHE analysis estimated that every dollar invested by the state in public higher education brings in $ 3 in tax revenue due to increased salaries for USHE graduates. The report says.

The report, recently presented to the Utah Council on Higher Education, highlights other societal and individual benefits attributed to educational attainment.

Individual benefits include increased income, economic mobility, healthier lifestyles and a higher likelihood of having employer-provided health insurance.

Britton said health care coverage for her family is a particularly important work benefit.

“In the past, I spent years without health care due to the high cost and low salary. My degree took away so much of the previous stress and brought greater happiness, ”he said.

The societal benefits of higher education also include higher gross domestic product, reduced crime, increased rates of volunteering, and higher rates of voter turnout. Other societal benefits include a lower unemployment rate, reduced dependence on public aid, reduced health care costs, and a reduced poverty rate.

“We usually talk about it in terms of the student receiving a degree as being a benefit to (our) higher education system, but this is a broader approach where we show that even doing higher education in our state provides a benefit to the state, ”said Carrie Mayne, associate commissioner of manpower and institutional research for the Utah higher education system.

The state’s 16 technical colleges and degree-granting universities and colleges employ more than 53,000 people and help build businesses and inventions through research and innovation.


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