Blog posts tagged in Presidents Blog

For the past two weeks, I have written about the value of even a limited amount of college education. While a degree is critical to professional success in every way, the report by the Hamilton Group provided evidence that starting college, even if a degree is not completed, is an important and valuable investment.

If you read my blog last week, I ended with the sentence, And we havent even mentioned the value of a liberal education!  Well, for the next few weeks, thats the focus of my comments. Specifically, I just completed reading a thoughtful and compelling report from the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, developed by its Commission on the Humanities and the Social Sciences.

The report is entitled, The Heart of the Matter: The Humanities and Social Sciences for a Vibrant, Competitive, and Secure Nation.  Its genesis represents an all too rare bi-partisan effort. The report was commissioned by a quartet of lawmakers: Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee and Representative Thomas Petri of Wisconsin both Republicans; Senator Mark Warner of Virginia and Representative David Price of North Carolina both Democrats. The charge from these congressional members was:

What are the top actions that Congress, state governments, universities, foundations, educators, individual benefactors, and others should take now to maintain national excellence in humanities and social scientific scholarship and education, and to achieve long-term national goals for our intellectual and economic well-being; for a stronger, more vibrant civil society; and for the success of cultural diplomacy in the 21st century? 

This report is viewed by its authors as a complement to the 2007 publication of, Rising Above the Gathering Storm.  The 2007 report generated from the scientific community and was intended to strengthen STEM education (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) and to encourage new and expanding funding for scientific research.

The Commission that produced The Heart of the Matter was comprised of 54 members including scholars, business executives, scientists, philanthropists, engineers and artists. The members were drawn from higher education, the corporate world, both the public and private sectors, government service, foundations and the arts.

In producing this report, the Commission was guided by three overarching goals that they believe cannot be achieved by science alone:

1.      To educate Americans in the knowledge, skills, and understanding they will need to thrive in the twenty-first-century democracy;

2.      To foster a society that is innovative, competitive, and strong; and,

3.      To equip the nation for leadership in an interconnected world.

My interest in this report was heightened by the very first prefatory page. The Commission asks, Who will lead America into a bright future?   Their answer,

Citizens who are educated in the broadest possible sense, so that they can participate in their own governance and engage with the world. An adaptable and creative workforce. Experts in national security, equipped with the cultural understanding, knowledge of social dynamics, and language proficiency to lead our foreign service and military through complex global conflicts. Elected officials and a broader public, who exercise civil political discourse, founded on an appreciation of the ways our differences and commonalities have shaped our rich history. We must prepare the next generation to be these future leaders. 

Liberal education and leadership development two of my core values. More about this important report in the coming weeks.

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

Last week I began sharing the results of a study entitled, “Is Starting College and Not Finishing Really That Bad?”  This research was released by the Hamilton Project which is part of the Brookings Institution. The goal of this study was to analyze the effect of starting, but not finishing, a two-year or a four-year college degree. Here is what they found.

Those who started college but did not complete a degree had lifetime earnings of approximately $100,000 more (in present value) than their peers who only completed high school. If analyzed in terms of rate of return rather than actual dollars, the study concluded that some college is a far better investment than any “conventional investment including stocks, bonds, and real estate.”  Of course the study also points out that the return on some college is far less than completing a degree.

The study also finds that there is a correlation between education and employment opportunities. For example, the unemployment rates in April 2013 (based on Bureau of Labor Statistics data) were as follows:

-       Age 25 or older without a high school diploma – 11.4%

-       Age 25 or older with a high school diploma – 7.2%

-       Age 25 or older with an associate’s degree – 5.0%%

-       Age 25 or older with a bachelor’s degree or higher – 3.6%

These disparities are even greater when an analysis is done on the employment-to-population ratio. These data reflect that only 39.9% of all individuals without a high school diploma hold a job; only 54.5% of all individuals with only a high school diploma hold a job; only 68.6% of all individuals with an associate’s degree hold a job; and, 73.2% of all individuals with a bachelor’s degree or higher hold a job.

What is most interesting and unique to this report is the evidence that of those with only some college, 60.9% hold a job. Clearly, some college improves employment opportunities as well as income potential.

The final area addressed by this study is the jobs gap in this country. Since the Great Recession in December 2007, this country has experienced a jobs gap of 9.9 million jobs. Even if job creation reaches the highest levels during the pre-recession years, this gap will not be closed until 2017-2020.

The point made by this study is that with limited job opportunities and a slow recovery, those entering or in the workforce will need the necessary skills and every competitive advantage. Education is definitely a key.

Some people continue to question whether or not college is a good investment. But the data is clear. It is a good investment in terms of job opportunity. It is a good investment in terms of lifetime earnings. And it is a better investment than other conventional investment opportunities. And we haven’t even mentioned the value of a liberal education!

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

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.)