Tuition fees, student debt, dropout rates and much more
The cost of education has always been a very important topic for students and society as a whole, and yet, it is not addressed as much as it should be. There is little transparency on information regarding the true cost of completing undergraduate and graduate programs. Additionally, there are concerns over course materials fees such as textbooks and other costs such as amenity fees and matriculation fees and the true value they add to students' education (Davis & al, 2019).
With millions of students entering higher education each year (EducationData, 2021a), one would think that the system is optimized to reduce students' cost burden while maximizing their educational value. However, a study on cost analysis in education has shown that there is a lack of cost-benefit evaluations in climates wherein resources are very limited (Rice, 1997). Sadly, limited is an understatement to students' financial inability to attend and complete higher education while receiving a quality learning experience in today's society.
With that said, to afford higher education, students' take on massive loans to cover the ever-rising tuition fees and other associated costs. According to The Institute for College Access and Success, "two in three college seniors who graduated from public and private nonprofit colleges in 2018 had student loan debt. These borrowers owed an average of $29,200, 2% higher than the 2017 average of $28,650". Assuming that students enter the workforce six months after they graduate, it takes approximately 20 years for students to pay off their debt (EducationData, 2021b). However, not all students complete their programs, with the overall dropout rate for undergraduate college students in the US being 40% and in Canada being just under 30% (EducationData, 2021c; Government of Ontario, 2020). These alarming numbers of dropout rates and uncompleted programs coupled with increasing tuition fees and debts leave students wondering if there is a more optimized method of acquiring knowledge that is cost-effective, provides quality learning experiences and guarantees better career preparation opportunities.
Higher costs does not equal better education: Quality over quantity
According to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, recent college graduates' current overall unemployment rate is 3.8%, which is 0.2% higher than the general job market's unemployment rate. Although this might seem insignificant, analyzing the unemployment rates for recent graduates of specific majors such as those in the STEM field is quite alarming. Students who majored in Physics resulted in an unemployment rate of 7.7%, 5.2% for Computer Science majors, 4.9% for Mathematics and General Engineering majors, and the list goes on. Given the high costs of acquiring higher education, one would think that such investment and achievement would automatically result in a more significant competitive edge in the job market. Although this holds true under favourable conditions, most students still feel under-equipped with the right tools, knowledge and skillsets to fairly compete and find employment.
A higher education cost does not necessarily correlate to better and higher quality learning experiences. Despite the rise in tuition fees, students are still enrolling in classes but given the scarce resources of universities and colleges, they are subjected to enrolling in large volume classes where learning environments are not as ideal for knowledge creation and retention. Personalized and active learning opportunities are limited. As much as it is ideal for instructors to administer high quality, thought provoking assignments and group projects for immersive learning purposes, carrying out these types of assessments is not feasible in 300+ student-sized classes. As such, students do not have enough opportunities to develop higher order thinking skills as conventional exams and multiple choice-based assessments are administered for time-saving purposes. Naturally, having more students in one class would make it difficult for professors to provide regular feedback and have mentoring opportunities. This could be solved by having more TAs to help with grading and providing feedback to the students but this would undoubtedly increase the tuition even more. Furthermore, textbooks have been notorious for being expensive with other hardcopy published options escalating their prices even more which significantly adds on to students' financial burden. Full-time students are spending approximately $1298 annually on textbooks alone. However, recent research has shown that alternatives such as open educational resources and other forms of knowledge obtainment provide students with the same amount of information and value, if not more, without the high costs of traditional textbooks.
How Kritik can help increase value while lowering costs
Through Kritik, students can obtain more value out of their education in ways that would be impossible with traditional assessments and course requirements. By leveraging peer assessment, students can receive multiple feedback on their assignments frequently instead of heavily relying on TA resources and professors for feedback which is extremely costly and time-consuming. The peer assessment process empowers students to acquire different perspectives on course concepts, consolidate their learning and receive guidance while improving their soft skills such as communication and teamwork skills. These benefits can manifest without needing to consume more university and college resources, employing more TAs than ideal and ultimately, without drastically increasing tuition fees.
Comparing the amount of value students get from peer assessment and the use of textbooks, it can be fairly argued that using Kritik is more effective in reducing costs while increasing benefits. By moving away from the lower levels of Bloom's Taxonomy associated with textbooks such as memorization and moving towards peer grading and higher-order thinking, students are able to acquire and retain more knowledge for less. Textbooks and TAs are still important, but great alternatives can reduce the overall cost of education while improving student engagement and academic performance.
Most importantly, peer assessment teaches students the process and importance of providing and receiving feedback which is crucial for their future careers and professional development. Unfortunately, this valuable skill is not taught as much to students despite the premium price of education in today's society. By allowing students to participate in an immersive and dynamic learning experience, they are able to acquire the necessary knowledge and life lessons to reach academic success and have better career preparation. Without raising tuition fees and adding too much to course material costs, Kritik is able to add great value to students' education while enhancing their abilities to compete in the job market after graduating.
Although there is still much to be researched on the cost-benefits of the current education system, it stands apparent that students are paying a premium despite the less-optimized value they are receiving. With that said, colleges and universities are all about education. It is an investment that will last a lifetime, so we need to ensure that students are receiving quality education without the extreme financial burden.
Davis, L. A., Wolniak, G. C., George, C. E., & Nelson, G. R. (2019). Demystifying tuition? A content analysis of the information quality of public college and university websites. AERA Open, 5(3), 233285841986765. doi:10.1177/2332858419867650
EducationData (2021ca, February 20). College enrollment Statistics : Total + by demographic. Retrieved March 01, 2021, from https://educationdata.org/college-enrollment-statistics
EducationData. (2021b, February 28). Average time to pay off student Loans : Data analysis. Retrieved March 01, 2021, from https://educationdata.org/average-time-to-repay-student-loans
EducationData. (2021c, February 28). College dropout rate : By year + DEMOGRAPHICS. Retrieved March 01, 2021, from https://educationdata.org/college-dropout-rates
Federal Reserve Bank of New York. (2021, February 12). The labor market for recent college graduates - federal reserve Bank of new york. Retrieved March 01, 2021, from https://www.newyorkfed.org/research/college-labor-market/college-labor-market_compare-majors.html
Government of Ontario. (2020, November 2). University employment outcomes, graduation and student loan default rates. Ministry of Colleges and Universities. Retrieved March 01, 2021, from http://www.iaccess.gov.on.ca/OsapRatesWeb/enterapp/home.xhtml
The Institute for College Access and Success. (2019, September 19). REPORT: Class of 2018 Four-Year Graduates’ Average Student Debt Is $29,200 [Press release]. Retrieved March 1, 2021, from https://ticas.org/affordability-2/student-aid/student-debt-student-aid/report-class-of-2018-four-year-graduates-average-student-debt-is-29200/
Top Hat. (2020, July 28). How the average cost of textbooks is increasing: Infographic. Retrieved March 01, 2021, from https://tophat.com/teaching-resources/infographics/average-cost-of-textbooks-infographic/