Archive for Thursday, April 3, 2014

Opinion: College degree gains in importance

April 3, 2014


Those who question the fundamental value of a college degree need to stand back and accept undisputed facts.

The truth is the worth of a college degree is rising. Today, young adults with just a high school diploma earn 62 percent of the typical salary of college graduates. In 1965, those with just a high school diploma earned 81 percent of the salary of college graduates.

And this is only part of the story as told by the Pew Research Center and reported to the country by the Associated Press.

Ninety percent of young workers say their college degree has already or will pay off, and 86 percent of those who borrowed money agree.

The AP reported that the median salary of young workers is $45,500 for those with a four-year college degree or more; $30,000 for a two-year degree or some college; and $28,000 for high school graduates.

Self worth is very high among college and university graduates, regardless of institutional locations.

Clearly, recent state funding for higher education reflects more and more the findings such as those by Pew. According to the Center for the Study of Education Policy at Illinois State University, in the current fiscal year, state funding for colleges and universities is up in 40 states and overall by 5.7 percent.

That will make up for some of the draconian cuts when per student state funding dropped by an national average of 28 percent during the recession.

A majority of state legislatures now believe that tuition increases have been excessive and unfair to middle- and low-income parents. This is promising news on the economic and education fronts, but more is needed.

Tough budget decisions will be the order of the day for years to come. The balance of education funding with other needs will continue to receive scrutiny with a special eye on accountability, creativity, revenue generation and economic development.

But as we make those critical decisions, let us have the full picture.

Gordon Gee is unmatched in experience and accomplishment in American higher education. The president/chancellor of West Virginia University (twice), the University of Colorado, Ohio State University (twice), Brown University, and Vanderbilt University, commented for the column on the importance of state colleges and universities.

“Universities exist to teach and learn. Without putting our students first, we suffer the consequences of intellectual paralysis and, indeed, focus on the wrong things. Students are the reason we exist. The passage of knowledge is our gift to them. The challenge of new ideas is their gift to us. We must always remember this core mission of the institution.

“Universities, in my view, are the last solid place in which we can find an avenue to return to discussions about our nation’s future, where ideas are welcomed, differences noted and solutions found. Our universities, and particularly great land-grant universities, now must forge ahead to create dialogue. We need to create solutions. And we need to provide leadership in a time of uncertainty.

“Universities exist to create jobs. They are economic drivers for their states. We need to lead the initiatives that are critical to the future of all states and their residents. The world comes to states through the university and the states go to the world through the university. The future of every state is dependent on its educated citizenry. We have the ability to build an economic base in which jobs and opportunity are created. That is the real calling of the university — particularly as a land-grant institution.

“But this is a time of needed change. It is time for universities across the country to think about things differently. We are at a crossroads. There is a $17 trillion national debt, a $1 trillion student loan overhang and limited state resources. The question we need to be asking is: How do we increase quality but do so while moderating costs? Universities will continue to survive. But those who approach things differently, who hold themselves accountable to find solutions and be creative — they are the universities that will thrive. Universities need to be good stewards and committed partners in their success.”

Well said, President Gee.

— Gene Budig is past president/chancellor of Illinois State University, West Virginia University, and Kansas University and of Major League Baseball’s American League. Alan Heaps is a former vice president of the College Board in New York City.


RJ Johnson 3 years, 9 months ago

Yup, go to college so you can pay for the health insurance of those who didn't go to college!

James Howlette 3 years, 9 months ago

Gladly. It's called "being a decent human being."

Bob Smith 3 years, 9 months ago

Because a degree in 14th Century Nose Flute Appreciation is always a ticket to a high-paying job!

James Howlette 3 years, 9 months ago

And where exactly might one attain that degree? Do tell.

Dan Eyler 3 years, 9 months ago

I don't ever see a day when KU will consider serious reduction in its budget. It will have to be forced on the school. The cost of a four year degree is ridiculously high taking years and years to repay. The cost of living is so high today that the debt load isn't sustainable. I realize certain degrees need advanced studies but for the most part the only way to reduce the cost of education will be to make difficult choices. The universities must be able to react quickly to changes in the demand. Where are the jobs in the future and limit loans to those students who are willing to meet the demand. The tax payer shouldn't have to secure debt of students who are not meeting demands in the marketplace. Most reasonable people could be provided a list of all degrees from the university of Kansas and quickly reduce degree programs that will not produce those $40 thousand dollar salaries promised by higher education. Higher education wants it both ways. I comletely agree that higher education can produce higher paying jobs, but at the same time universities don't hesitate to take tuition money and provide students a product that has no better opportunity than those who don't go to college at all.

James Howlette 3 years, 9 months ago

I earn more than twice that with a degree that "most reasonable people" think is a one-way ticket to starvation land. True story. You can't just eyeball a list and know what people do with it or what they're going to make.

Richard Heckler 3 years, 9 months ago

The jobs for the zillions of college grads each year are simply not available. The jobs are going abroad which is to say if grads want a USA job they may need to move to China,Mexico,Pakistan etc etc etc.

INDIA is expecting about 15 million USA white collar high tech positions and India in the process of constructing a mammoth "Silicon Valley" style operation which is displacing a ton of local residents.

Corporate American and too many in congress are not working for future American workers who are working their butts off in order to move forward. It sucks.

If the jobs are not available how can anyone afford to go to college IF future employment is based on a specific degree . The fastest growing industry in the USA is medical care….. doctors and technicians.

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