Friday, November 21, 2014

The high cost of not going to college

Is college really worth it—all of that time and effort, not to mention how much it costs, to earn a degree?

Articles about rising college costs and growing student debt dominate the national headlines. There was even a feature film made on the subject—Ivory Tower—which premiered at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival and made its television debut Thursday night on CNN. There’s no doubt it’s a question on the minds of many high school students and their families as they ponder the future.

Certainly, paying for college is a major investment—for many, second only to the cost of buying a home. But, how do you judge a good investment from a bad one? The best way is to consider its rate of return.

While not every job requires four years of college, according to a recent study by the U.S. Census Bureau, an individual with a bachelor’s degree can expect lifetime earnings to be more than double that of someone with a high school diploma alone. Add a graduate or professional degree, and that figure goes even higher. It’s hard to argue that a college education isn’t one of the best investments you will ever make.

What’s more, unemployment among college graduates is about one-third that compared to those without a degree. Put another way, earn a college degree and you’re much more likely to have a job, and one that pays more. In that sense, the cost of not going to college is very high.

Still, the price tag can be daunting, especially to someone who comes from a family background where no one has gone to college before. The thought of going into debt to pay for college scares away many talented potential students—an important issue that calls for serious and ongoing dialogue.
That’s why it’s important to keep the price of high-quality higher education as affordable as possible, which is the mission of the 14 universities within Pennsylvania’s State System of Higher Education.

Our state-owned universities are focused on three things: access, quality and value. We are working to ensure the high-quality, high-demand degree programs we offer align with the demands of our students and their future employers. We continue our efforts to increase efficiency and accountability as a means to keep tuition manageable for Pennsylvania’s families.
In fact, the average price of tuition and fees at the State System universities is approximately half that of state-related schools Penn State, Pitt and Temple and a fraction of what many private universities charge. What’s more, the average total price of attendance—combined tuition, fees, room and board—at our 14 institutions is below the national average.

There is little question that higher education funding is an investment for the Commonwealth too, and the rate of return is just as high because our graduates form the foundation of Pennsylvania’s future. Nearly 90 percent of State System students are Pennsylvania residents, most of whom will remain here after graduation to live, work and raise their families, supporting the state’s economy as they do.

Is college worth it? The answer to that question remains a resounding yes—both for Pennsylvania’s families and for the Commonwealth as a whole.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Take the Business Plan Competition Challenge

Last year, more than 140 student teams competed in the State System’s annual Student Business Plan Competition. I had the honor to see firsthand some of the incredible ingenuity and imagination of our students. As examples, a student from Shippensburg was part of the winning team that created Oak Hill Farm Naturals—an all-natural fly repellant for use on horses. The second place winners, also from Shippensburg, developed new recreational facility management software. The third place winner, an IUP student, created the Dirt-Doc— a user-friendly search engine to advertise the buying and selling of topsoil or other earth products. 

So much hard work goes into these business plans, but the benefits are well worth it. Not only do students get the opportunity to work with faculty and business mentors to fine tune every detail of their plans, but they also get to hone “real world” skills such as team building, public speaking, and strategic planning. Of course, prizes include $10,000 for 1st place, $5,000 for 2nd place, and $2,500 for 3rd place.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Honor to whom honor is due

Today we honor all veterans—past and present—who have given of themselves in service to our country. As a nation of free people, we express sincere gratitude for their protection, courage, and bravery.

Whether active-duty, in-reserve, or returning from service, veterans should have access to support during their transition into higher education. At the State System, not only do our 14 universities offer special assistance to veterans, ranging from admissions and financial aid counseling to tutoring, but we now provide veterans with class scheduling preference that will afford them an early opportunity to lock-in their preferred courses. These are just a few simple things we can do for those who have done so much for us already.

We also owe gratitude to the many military veterans who are already part of our campus communities. Without their service and their sacrifice, the rest of us would not be able to enjoy the freedoms we do today. Everyone should say thank you to our veterans; not just today, but every day.