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Perceptions of the value of higher education among undergraduate students

Beit-Arie, Yali (2024) Perceptions of the value of higher education among undergraduate students. Undergraduate Thesis, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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A rising tide of reports, commentaries, surveys, and studies seems to herald a crisis in higher education – a crisis frequently framed as a question of value. There are many variations of the question: What benefits does postsecondary education yield? What is the purpose of attending a postsecondary institution? Do such institutions deliver on this purpose? Does the value of a degree lie in its purported utility value on the job market? Does it hold intrinsic value or offer a path to self-development? Is college “worth it”? The skyrocketing cost of higher education in recent years is perhaps the most influential factor driving such questioning and is both a reflection of a neoliberal framing of education and a source of the many conflicts prompting questions of its value. The present study examines to what extent questions of value enter into the way students think about their own educational experiences. It draws on nine in-depth interviews with undergraduate students at the University of Pittsburgh to investigate how students themselves think about the complex concept of value. It probes the tensions and conflicts that exist within multifarious perceptions, seeking to understand how students themselves define value and how they subsequently reflect on that value based on their lived experiences. The present study’s methodology reflects this aim through the deliberate selection of a sample of students representing a wide range of backgrounds, including year in school, major, amount of debt, and generation status. The study finds that students primarily view the purpose of college as getting a desirable job and building a network, yet place considerable value on other, less instrumental benefits. This results in a tension between conflicting conceptions, appearing to be largely due to cost, which complicates how students consider value. This thesis strives to illuminate the ways students view their college educations, highlighting what they consider beneficial and important as well as challenging and problematic, in the hopes of adding clarification to the often confusing and contradictory nature of such abstract notions as value.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Beit-Arie, Yaliyab23@pitt.eduyab23
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Thesis AdvisorSlammon,
Committee MemberDeAngelo, Lindadeangelo@pitt.edi
Committee MemberMarcus,
Committee MemberRogers,
Date: 22 April 2024
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 9 April 2024
Approval Date: 22 April 2024
Submission Date: 13 April 2024
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Number of Pages: 95
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: David C. Frederick Honors College
Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > Sociology
Degree: BPhil - Bachelor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Undergraduate Thesis
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: Value; Purpose of College; Higher Education
Date Deposited: 22 Apr 2024 15:24
Last Modified: 22 Apr 2024 15:24


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