From time to time I get the opportunity to spread the good word about not just UMKC, but about higher education in general, via what we call the Show Me Value Tour. These are community forums in which I take that message straight to our future students at schools in the Kansas City region.
The tour, originated by UM System President Tim Wolfe, is designed to counter growing sentiment that a college education is not as valuable as it once was. Some of my tour stops have been in the Kansas City Northland, with visits to Eastgate Middle School and New Mark Middle School.
I talked about the benefits of a college degree, both career-related and personal, with AVID scholars. AVID is a college readiness program that targets students who fall in the middle academically and have aspirations for college.
I told the students a college education allows them to discover their talents, hone strengths, think creatively and strategically, and learn to work in teams, which are all skills needed in today’s workforce, regardless of the job.
This message applies to anyone considering higher education. There is no greater investment you can make in yourself than a college education. A college education gives you choices and will help you be successful. Education is the path to lifelong success.
I understand that the prospect of student loan debt gives some potential students pause. But an education through the University of Missouri System is more affordable than people might think; a lot of need-based financial aid is available (about 80 percent of UM system students receive some financial aid); and statistics clearly show that college pays off in the long run.
For instance, a person with a college degree will make nearly twice as much in his or her lifetime as someone with a high school diploma. And the rate of return on a college degree is about 15 percent – compared to the stock market at around 7 percent and the housing market at 0.4 percent.
President Wolfe has cited studies showing that college graduates live nine years longer than high school graduates; college graduates enjoy a higher quality of life; and college grads are less likely to lose their jobs during a recession. And UMKC alumna Mary Daly, now senior vice president and associate director of research at the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, has studied the financial benefits of a college degree for three decades. Her research shows that the average worker with a college degree earned about $20,000 more, per year, than the average worker with just a high school diploma.
So don’t let finances hold you back. Once you’ve earned it, an education is something no one can take away from you. Go to college, discover yourself and be yourself. The entire community needs you to live up to your potential. Your future is ready and waiting for you to seize it.