The Region

Essay Question: Higher Education

Published November 5, 2012  | September 2012 issue

What is the value of higher education?

This spring the Minneapolis Fed held its 24th Annual Student Essay Contest, which is open to all high school students in the Ninth Federal Reserve District. The contest drew 320 essays from schools throughout the district. The winning essay is published here. Other top essays can be found under the Student Resources section of the Community & Education tab.

Thirty finalists each received $100. The third-place winner received an additional $200, and the second-place winner an additional $300. The first-place winner, Matthew McFarland of the Blake School in Minneapolis, received an additional $400 and a paid summer internship at the Minneapolis Fed.

There are plenty of factors to weigh in making decisions about what to do after high school graduation. Family and social expectations are important, but the decision is fundamentally an economic one. Higher education is a major investment. How to weigh the costs and benefits is different for everyone, but the decision has tremendous significance for individuals and for society as a whole. Entrants in this year’s essay contest were asked to evaluate such decisions using economic principles.