Jenna Robinson of the Martin Center devotes her latest column to the process young people use when making decisions about college.

For years, college-for-all was the dominant narrative of pundits, parents, and high school guidance counselors. And most people interpreted that directive to mean that everyone should attend a four-year university.

That’s starting to change. I hear more every day about apprenticeships, community colleges, certificate programs, and coding academies. But students still need guidance when making crucial decisions about what they will learn and how they will enter the labor market.

That’s where a new book by Michael B. Horn and Bob Moesta comes in. Choosing College: How to Make Better Learning Decisions Throughout Your Life, published last fall, provides a new framework for thinking about postsecondary education options. As the authors say in the introduction, they want potential students to ask a foundational question about education: Why?

Why are you seeking more education in your life? Or why should you? What is the progress you are trying to make?

When asked, students usually answer that they’re going to college “to get a job.” …

… But students (and potential students) don’t always make decisions that comport with their stated preferences. Many students choose colleges and universities with bad track records in terms of graduate employment. And others end up underemployed because they chose majors with low demand.

Horn and Moesta say that one reason for the disconnect is that students’ reasons for choosing a college are actually “more complicated” than just improving their employment opportunities. Unlike many college boosters, they also realize that for many people, college doesn’t work and for other people, college ends up not paying off. That understanding helps the authors give more realistic advice. …

… The authors explain that knowing which “job” students want their college experience to do can help them figure out what success looks like.