A new report says part of the solution to the nation’s student loan crisis is for colleges and universities to be more honest with students before they pick a major.
The Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty on Tuesday released its report ‘Bang for the Buck-y’ which looks at the costs and return on investment for various degrees at various schools here in Wisconsin.
“We make the case that public universities must serve as good stewards of taxpayer money, and those that are putting students on career paths where they’re unlikely to be able to pay their student loans ought to be held accountable,” the authors wrote. “Moreover, universities should aid in solving the growing workforce crisis by steering students towards careers where there are shortages in the state.”
WILL’s report ranks two-year, four-year, technical and beauty schools for loan default rates, and ranks majors at various campuses based on their return on investment.
Beauty schools in Wisconsin have, by far, the worst rate of students paying back their loans. The report notes that 10 beauty schools have a loan default rate above 11%, with the State College of Beauty Culture reporting a 28.5% rate of student loan default. By comparison, UW- Milwaukee has the highest default rate for four-year, UW schools at 6.2%.
“We should not ignore the extremely high default rates at many beauty schools,” the report notes. “Various cosmetology licenses require a certain number of hours at a state licensed school of cosmetology, barbering, or aesthetics.10 Given the default rates, one must question the utility of these programs.”
UW-Madison has the second lowest rate of students defaulting on their loans, at just 0.9%. Only the Nashotah House Seminary has a lower rate of default.
The report also looks at return on investment (ROI) for college majors. And once again there is a massive difference.
“The major with the most negative ROI is dance. All else equal, a student who majors in dance at UW-Milwaukee is likely to have a net negative effect on their lifetime earnings of nearly $250,000,” the authors wrote. “On the other end of the spectrum is perhaps what one might expect—five engineering majors. If a student with the same demographic profile and background chose a computer engineering major over dance, the net effect on their lifetime earnings would be expected to be $712,072.”
WILL’s report makes three suggestions to help turn things around.
One, the report says schools need to be much more honest with students about the return on investment for college majors. The report also suggests schools have students sign informed consent forms for certain majors, so students know just what they are getting into. And finally, the report suggests incentives for colleges and universities which help students get degrees with higher returns on investment, and the schools that see fewer students default on their loans.