Blog posts tagged in Presidents Blog

Over the years, I have written about the value of a college degree. Study after study reflects the clear value of earning at least a bachelor’s degree in terms of earnings over a lifetime, professional success, personal satisfaction and levels of community engagement. But a recent study released by the Hamilton Project entitled, “Is Starting College and Not Finishing Really That Bad?” piqued my interest.

The Hamilton Project began in 2006 as an economic policy initiative at the Brookings Institution. It is named after Alexander Hamilton, this country’s first Secretary of the Treasury, who is credited with laying the foundation for the modern American economy.

The Project brings together “leading academics, business people, and public policy makers who wanted to develop a serious, systematic strategy to address the challenges that our economy faces.”  The Project regularly publishes papers and books and sponsors events intended to both inform and encourage the national debate on the nation’s economy including topics like economic security, energy and health care.

Its self-described focus is as follows:

“From its first strategy paper, the Project set forth a clear policy path to promote our nation’s economic health, a strategy based on three interrelated principles: that economic growth must be broad-based to be strong and sustainable over the long term; that economic security and economic growth can be mutually reinforcing; and that an effective government can improve economic performance. These ideas, especially in combination, offer a strikingly different vision from the economic policies that contributed to the alarming trends in rising income inequality and a mounting federal deficit.”

This most recent report analyzed the nation’s employment statistics. As you may recall, 175,000 new jobs were added in May. However, the unemployment rate moved up to 7.6%. According to the Hamilton Project’s analysis, “the broadest measure of employment --- the employment-to-population ratio --- was 58.6%, the same as a year ago. It has remained roughly at the same level since late 2009.”

The report goes on to remind us that the analysis of employment data over the past years has consistently shown two important things:

-       Workers with more education continue to be employed at higher rates than their less educated counterparts; and,

-       Workers with more education continue to earn more than their less educated counterparts.

As so many reports have shown, the rates of return attributed to two-year, four-year and graduate degrees are high.

But “Is Starting College and Not Finishing Really That Bad?” asks and answers a very important question… what is the impact for people who start a two-year or four-year degree, but fail to complete their degree program? This question is important in relation to understanding employment data, but also in light of the increasing costs of education and the amount of debt all students incur regardless of the length of their college career.

This study provides very compelling evidence that even just starting college has a positive impact on a person’s career earnings. And next week, I will share more of the details. It will be worth the wait!

(As always, your comments and questions are welcome.)

This past weekend, Anna Maria College celebrated its 2013 Commencement. Colleges and universities across the country are holding similar celebrations as the Class of 2013 moves from the classroom to the world. I have attended many, many commencement exercises as an educator and a parent. In many ways, they are always the same. And in my opinion, that’s perfect!

 Commencement exercises follow a standard pattern. Although the actual verbiage may change, the graduates are always encouraged to live life to its fullest and to make a difference in the world. For example, this year’s AMC student speaker told her fellow graduates, “… remember that you can make a difference in the world. You should make a difference in the world. You must. Because by coming this far, you already have.”  The speaker was a remarkable young woman who is passionate about her future career in education … working with and advocating for children.

The message of our scheduled Commencement speaker encouraged our graduates with the following, “You are a unique person, with a promising destiny. Live in the now. Listen carefully to the questions arising within you. They are the source of the responses to your innermost dreams.  Embrace life and live it to the full.”  Good advice from a retired Bishop who has served others his entire life.

Commencements can always be expected to provide some lighthearted moments as well. Invariably, there are students who decorate their mortar boards and there are the inevitable shout outs to and from families as graduates receive their diplomas.

This was AMC’s commencement … this was every college’s commencement … this year … last year … and next year. But I wouldn’t change a thing!  Because the fact of the matter is that each year we graduate a new class of students who have the potential to change the world … to make a difference. If not these graduates, then who will dedicate their time and talent to address the challenges of society and to make our world a better place for all of us?

And despite the fact that many challenges remain daunting, these graduates … every year’s graduates … give me hope. In the past few days, I spent time speaking individually with many members of the Class of 2013. They are future doctors and nurses, social workers and teachers, law enforcement professionals and lawyers. Some plan to go into the world of commerce and industry, some even want to work in higher education.

But they all have dreams, ambitions and a strong desire to make a difference. They are not totally altruistic. They need to earn an income and pay off their loans. But their aspirations are replete with their values. And whatever their professional goals, they understand their responsibility to serve the Common Good.

Commencements are filled with formulaic platitudes … perhaps. But they are also filled with hope and inspiration for the future. On Commencement Day every year, I am convinced that the world will be a better place.

Congratulations to the Class of 2013. Best wishes and Godspeed.

(As always, your comments and questions are welcome.)

Posted by on in President's Blog

As I write this blog, our students are in the midst of final exams. Everywhere I go on campus, there are students huddled over their computers, textbooks and notes working on their term papers and preparing for exams. The Spring weather has brought many students outside on the lawns and in groupings of bright red Adirondack chairs, preparing for their final days of the semester.

They seem to be focused on their reading and research. But what are they reading? A recent study presented at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association may provide some insights. Authored by SuHua Huang, an assistant professor of reading education at Midwestern State University, the study is entitled, “Reading Habits of College Students in the United States.”

The study was generated from Ms. Huang’s observations of her students … observations likely shared by many of us who teach today’s college students. She perceived that her students did not enjoy reading and did less reading than expected. The study attempted to provide empirical evidence.

The study represents the responses of 1,265 students from multiple disciplines who attended a public liberal arts university. Students were asked to self-report the amount of time they spent each week in activities like “academic reading, extracurricular reading, browsing the internet, working, sleeping, and socializing.”  The second phase of the study included follow up interviews of a select number of respondents as well as observations of students in several formal class settings. The findings are interesting.

Students report spending:

-       21 hours reading each week including:

·      8.9 hours on the Internet (primarily social media including Facebook, Twitter and Instagram)

·      7.7 hours on academic reading

·      4.2 hours on extracurricular reading (news, novels, nonacademic books, etc.)

The good news is that the results of this study indicate increased levels of reading than found in previous studies. For example, a study by the National Endowment for the Arts in 2007 found that Americans between the ages of 15 and 34 only spent an hour a week reading and that the reading of literature had dropped by 17% in the past decade.

But the distressing news (at least for those of us who value the reading of literature and expect students to read the assigned textbooks), is the percentage of time spent with technology. Students in this study complained that their textbooks were “tedious” and “time consuming” and they typically read their texts only if the material was going to be on an exam. Most of the course related reading took place during class time rather than outside of class.

For the author of this study, these results provide a reality that needs to be faced by today’s college professors. Ms. Huang is trying to integrate social media more fully into her pedagogy. She is also trying to use social media as a means to encourage reading through online book groups to discuss both her textbooks and other literature.

Social media and the Internet are a reality and a central part of our students’ lives. But the challenge is to engender a love of reading and to help our students find a balance between academic and intellectual growth and instant communication with their friends and family.

(As always, your comments and questions are welcome.)

Last week I introduced a study related to the growing number of students who choose to double major in college. I referred to these students as “overachievers.”  The study, “Double Majors: Influences, Identities and Impacts,“ authored by two sociologists at Vanderbilt University, classified them as either “deepeners” (double major in similar disciplines for a depth of study), “spanners,” or “Renaissance students” (double major in disparate disciplines for a breadth of study).

As I indicated last week, the study also poses and answers two important questions:

1)    Are these students over-extended?

2)    How should institutions better support these students?

For those who discourage students from double majoring, it is common for the concern to be over-extending, which will negatively impact performance. This study reaches a very different conclusion. This research indicates that students who double major “are classic ‘do more, do more’ students.”

These students are more involved in co-curricular activities than their single majoring counterparts; they more often assume leadership positions in clubs, organizations, SGA, athletic teams; are more involved in service programs and volunteerism; regularly attend outside activities like lectures, exhibits, discussion groups; and, are more likely to engage in research projects with faculty, independent study and research, and honors programs.

The concern raised by this study is that colleges and universities in general and faculty in particular do too little to encourage and support double majoring.  Since these students are often the best and the brightest, some faculty are parochial, preferring these students to remain within their discipline. The study found little evidence that advisors and faculty help these students to optimize their integrated learning and better connect the disciplines they choose to pursue.

My own belief is that we should encourage, not discourage, these interests. I applaud students who do their best to maximize their educational experience inside and outside of the classroom.  But I think it is important to do two things.

First, we need to help these students to better understand why they are choosing to double major.  If it is simply an attempt to build a transcript and a resume for future job viability, that would lead to a different choice than a genuine interest in learning and in liberal education.

Second, I think double majors need to have the opportunity to meet with an advisor who can help them to see the relationship between the various areas of study.  Understanding and appreciating the connection between art and science, history and math, science and philosophy require a depth of knowledge and an appreciation of learning that may not be readily present with undergraduate students.

So my advice regarding overachievers … teach them even more!

(As always, your comments and questions are welcome.)

Cacia King
These Are a Few of My Favorite Things

Hello everybody!

My name is Cacia (said K-sha) King. I am a sophomore music therapy major, and also an honors student here at AMC. I am a work-study student in the Admission department, and I am involved in several clubs.   I am writing this blog to answer questions and to talk about Anna Maria College.

But before we get started, I would like to give you a list (in no particular order) of my favorite things about AMC:

  1. I love being a music therapy major! In my opinion (although I am biased), it is the best major in the world! It is a perfect fit for me, and we have a great and immersive program here at AMC, and I love it!

  2. I love the honors program. Seriously though, if any current or prospective students are interested, go check it out! It is great to be in a class with other students who are like me, who all just love to learn about everything. It’s also great to have class with the honors program faculty. They are amazingly open and honest with us, which is great.

  3. I love the chicken fingers down in the HUB. Yes, that’s how much I love them. They’re really good. Gotta try ‘em.

  4. I love my relationship with my advisor and my professors. They are so supportive. I know that if I have an issue, I can confide in them and I know that they will help me conquer any problem I might have.

  5. I love being involved in my clubs. I am a member of music therapy club, drama club, and treasurer of chorus club. All of my clubs host great events and enrich my experience here at AMC

  6. I love Alice, the inter-library loan wizard in the library. I don’t think I could have done as well on my research papers without her. She is incredibly helpful (as is all the library staff), and would probably swim across the ocean to get the source you want. She’s great.

  7. I love all of the activities that the clubs and AMCAB put on. They are all great and there is always something to do, you just have to look (but not very hard).

  8. I love all of the supportive services we have on campus. It is really great to have the counseling center, career services, health services, the IT department, and the student success center on campus. I don’t know a single student who hasn’t used at least one. It is awesome to be able to have all of these services right on campus. It makes it easy to succeed when you’ve got all of these helpful people who want to help you right in your backyard.

  9. I love being a tour guide and working in Admissions. It seriously is the best job on campus.

  10. But most of all, I love the students and all of the people on campus. I’ve had so many heartwarming experiences that make me truly love my experience at AMC. I am just lucky to call many of these people my friends.

So there you have it. My favorite things. But don’t worry, I will be elaborating in future blog posts on several of these things because a few sentences don’t give them the justice they deserve.

And, that’s all folks!