High School Students Consider: Is College Worth It?

High School Students Consider: Is College Worth It?

Participants in Moody’s Mega Math Challenge provide insight through math modeling

March 2, 2015

Philadelphia, PA

— The number of American students attending college fell by almost half a million between 2012 and 2013, according to a recent Census Bureau report. Despite studies showing higher employment rates and better overall quality of life for college graduates, the pursuit of higher education has been steadily declining over the past few years.

As costs continue to skyrocket, students and parents are asking: is a college education worth the expensive price tag? 

This past weekend, more than 5,000 students from 45 U.S. states and Washington, D.C., competing in Moody’s Mega Math (M3) Challenge used mathematical models to quantify and consider the price paid, expected earnings, and lifestyle factors resulting from the attainment of an undergraduate education.  As part of the intensive Challenge Weekend, students working in teams of 3-5 spent 14 hours gathering data on tuition costs, debt burden, and labor statistics, and comparing the earning potential of various career paths, including those of STEM vs. non-STEM graduates. They also attempted to assign mathematical value to qualitative parameters that influence overall quality of life and evaluated the impact of President Obama’s community college plan, which proposes two years of free community college education for eligible students.

Eric Eager, an assistant professor in the department of mathematics at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, wrote the 2015 problem. "As a former student, current educator, and parent of future college students, the fiscal dynamics of higher education have been a constant interest to  me,” said Eric Eager, a mathematics professor at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse who wrote the Challenge problem this year. “The rising cost of  higher ed, coupled with increased scrutiny regarding its value, presents the kind of multifaceted problem that perfectly lends itself to mathematical  modeling.  I am very excited to see what solutions the teams propose this year."

 While competitors’ solutions may provide insight into their own decisions about college, that wasn’t the reason for their day-long quest — after all, the  Challenge problem remained top secret until the morning of their Challenge day. Among the participants’ motivations was a chance at winning a  portion of $125,000 in scholarships awarded by The Moody’s Foundation, which would alleviate some of their own college costs—should they decide  that higher education is “worth it.”

 Organized by the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics (SIAM), the M3 Challenge gives high school students the opportunity to answer broad  questions with the power of mathematics, and encourages them to study and pursue careers in science and math. This year marks the contest’s 10 year  anniversary.

 After two rounds of judging by professional applied mathematicians over the next eight weeks, six finalist teams will be selected to present their  winning solutions to a panel of mathematical experts at Moody’s Foundation headquarters in New York City on April 27. Approximately 65 teams will be  recognized with team scholarship prizes, with the champion team receiving a $20,000 prize.

To view the complete problem statement, go to /monthly-dialogue/2015-challenge-problem. For more information about the Challenge, visit /.


About the Sponsor

The Moody's Foundation, a charitable organization established by Moody's Corporation, is committed to supporting education, in particular the study of mathematics, finance and economics. The Foundation also funds specific initiatives in the areas of global economic development, microfinance, civic, health and human services as well as arts and cultural programs. The Foundation supports programs located in select metropolitan areas in the United States, the United Kingdom and elsewhere around the world.

Moody's is an essential component of the global capital markets, providing credit ratings, research, tools and analysis that contribute to transparent and integrated financial markets. Moody's Corporation (NYSE: MCO) is the parent company of Moody's Investors Service, which provides credit ratings and research covering debt instruments and securities, and Moody's Analytics, which offers leading-edge software, advisory services and research for credit and economic analysis and financial risk management. The Corporation, which reported revenue of $3.0 billion in 2013, employs approximately 8,400 people worldwide and maintains a presence in 31 countries. Further information is available at www.moodys.com.

About the Organizer

The Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics (SIAM), headquartered in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, is an international society of over 14,000 individual members, including applied and computational mathematicians and computer scientists, as well as other scientists and engineers. Members from 85 countries are researchers, educators, students, and practitioners in industry, government, laboratories, and academia. The Society, which also includes nearly 500 academic and corporate institutional members, serves and advances the disciplines of applied mathematics and computational science by publishing a variety of books and prestigious peer-reviewed research journals, by conducting conferences, and by hosting activity groups in various areas of mathematics. SIAM provides many opportunities for students including regional sections and student chapters. Further information is available at http://www.siam.org.

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