Writing prompt: Is higher education an insurance policy?

I’ve been thinking about insurance lately. (I have an annual premium coming due; it does concentrate the mind.)

Sometimes when I hear people talk about sending their kids to college so they can get a good job, I get the sense that they think of a college degree as a kind of insurance policy. Of course, nobody ever says that, but the implication seems to hover just overhead.

It might be worth asking high school juniors and seniors to explore what value they expect to receive in return for their tuition and fees. The diploma might look nice framed on a wall (assuming the graduate has enough money left after tuition and fees to pay for the framing) but what do they really expect to get out of college? Perhaps equally important is the question how and when will they know if they got what they needed?

I think if I were to give that prompt, I would require students to do some personal interviews with college graduates:

  • an interview with someone who completed a bachelor’s degree from one to three years earlier
  • an interview with someone who completed a bachelor’s degree from four to 10 years earlier
  • an interview with someone who completed a bachelor’s degree 20 or more years earlier

I’d have each student come up with a list of three to five questions to ask each interviewee to get their take on the value of their college degree.  And I’d stipulate that they couldn’t ask any teachers in their school/school district.


Over at the PenPrompts.com blog this week,  I posted another insurance-related prompt for folks in the social sciences, especially economics and political science. That one explores whether health insurers ought to give discounts to people who didn’t any claims in a prior year(s) the way car insurers do.