My College is a Better Value than Yours

It is not surprising that college officials are proud of their institution. But a recent survey released by the Association of Governing Boards, a body representing trustees of four-year colleges and universities, takes this pride a little too far. Trustees were asked several questions about their own institution as well as about higher education in general, and in each case more trustees rated their own college much more favorably.

A prime example of this (irrational?) pride is shown in a question asking whether trustees view the cost of attending their college (relative to the value) as being too high, too low, or just about right. While 62% of trustees thought their college cost the right amount and only 17% thought it was too expensive relative to its value, 38% of trustees thought that higher education in general cost the right amount and 55% considered higher education to be too expensive. (Don’t look at my college…the problem is elsewhere!)

The perception that one’s own institution is better than average is not just limited to higher education or Lake Wobegon. National surveys have consistently shown that parents give high marks to their child’s public school, while giving much dimmer reviews to other schools in their district or K-12 education in general. Perhaps Americans should consider that the great unknown as probably not as bad as they think—and that their own school may not be a paragon of excellence.

Author: Robert

I am an a professor at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville who studies higher education finance, accountability policies and practices, and student financial aid. All opinions expressed here are my own.

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