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What Is College Worth?

If there is one thing most Americans have been able to agree on over the years, it is that getting an education, particularly a college education, is a key to human betterment and prosperity. The consensus dates back at least to 1636, when the legislature of the Massachusetts Bay Colony established Harvard College as America’s first institution of higher learning. It extended through the establishment of “land-grant colleges” during and after the Civil War, the passage of the G.I. Bill during the Second World War, the expansion of federal funding for higher education during the Great Society era, and President Obama’s efforts to make college more affordable. Already, the cost of higher education has become a big issue in the 2016 Presidential campaign. Three Democratic candidates—Hillary Clinton, Martin O’Malley, and Bernie Sanders—have offered plans to reform the student-loan program and make college more accessible.