Commencements and graduations at state and private universities are times for celebration, congratulations, family reunions, speeches intended to inspire the graduates, picture-taking, high-fives and an environment of excitement and enthusiasm.
It is also a time to note the sacrifices made by many parents to fund their son’s or daughter’s college education. Likewise it’s a time to note and appreciate the increasing numbers of students who find it necessary to hold a job to help pay their bills and at the same time maintain a heavy class load. Also, both parents and students are well aware at the time of graduation of the heavy debt a high percentage of graduates are loaded with as they leave the campus classrooms and laboratories.
Aside from the happy moments and the serious matter of how to pay the bills, graduation and commencement times also should cause high school students and their parents to give more attention to what their goals may be and what they hope to achieve with a college education.
For example, what percentage of those who will be graduating this weekend from Kansas University, or any major university, really know what they want to do? Are they prepared for a specific career? Did they attend college just because they thought that’s what Mom and Dad wanted them to do? How many students knew why they selected a specific major course of study? How many will be employed within a few weeks of their graduation, and how many will not be fully utilizing their skills, knowledge and potential?
How many Kansas students will remain in the state after their graduations or leave for greener pastures elsewhere? Does Kansas offer job and career opportunities that excite and inspire students to remain in the state? How many Lawrence graduates intend to stay in Lawrence to help make this a better, more progressive and prosperous community? Will the university be able to retain the skills and enthusiasm of highly talented teachers and researchers being offered jobs at other universities? How many students intend to seek master’s and doctoral degrees and, if so, what percentage will remain at KU for these studies or move to other institutions? What is needed to make KU an even more attractive institution for high school graduates, doctoral candidates and faculty?
Granted, these are not subjects most parents will be thinking about this morning as they sit at Memorial Stadium watching their sons and daughters walk down Campanile Hill, or that parents at the multitude of high school graduation ceremonies throughout the state will be thinking as they watch their children finish the K-12 sequence of classes and now ponder the matter of where their children might want to attend a college and if can they afford the bills.
Again, it will be a time of celebration and congratulations, as it should be. But it’s also a time for serious reflection and consideration about the value of a college degree, how to squeeze the most out of four, five or more years on a campus, and how to use this experience to move into a rewarding career, both personally and professionally, and a career that helps our society.