President's Blog: Higher Education: More Value for the Money

Published: February 1, 2022

Higher Education: More Value for the Money

So often we talk about education in terms of dollars spent. How much does tuition cost? What is the earning potential of a degree? Is a college education really worth the time and money? While those are valid questions, I would like to examine the broader picture of the value of post-secondary education and the financial and opportunity costs of impeding access to that education.

How do we calculate the societal cost of a post-secondary educational system that is not accessible to many of its members? According to the National Center for Education Statistics, median earnings for 25- to 34-year-old, full-time employees with a master’s degree or higher ($70,000) was 26% higher than the earnings of those with a bachelor’s degree ($55,700), which was 59% higher than the median earnings of those who completed only high school ($35,000). That loss in earnings impacts the individual, their family, future generations, and the broader community as a whole. People without post-secondary education have been found to be less likely to be politically engaged, to volunteer, and to give to charitable organizations.

Each person’s path to higher education is unique. To bring the greatest value, colleges and universities must recognize and embrace those differences to ensure that education is authentically integrated into students’ lives. Every step along the way (pre-admission visit, enrollment, attendance, graduation) is significant and provides beneficial experiences. In addition to making classes more accessible, we must continue to ensure that all aspects of an institution are available and inclusive to all.

As diversity and inclusion consultant Verna Myers has stated so well, "Diversity is being invited to the party; inclusion is being asked to dance." Student events outside of the classroom, such as club sports, and even just meeting in the dining hall, are as important to the student experience as academics. As students get to know people different from themselves, a window can open into possibilities that they may not have known previously existed. For example, our annual Ethics Forum features students in the Psy.D. and the Master of Science in Counseling Psychology programs presenting their research on various ethics and advocacy topics, including issues that their classmates may not be familiar with. By talking about noteworthy topics in a collaborative environment, our students can learn from the worldview of others outside the traditional classroom setting.

The pandemic has heightened the need for a variety of options for education and training, all with the goal of a lifetime of learning. Even careers that may not have required a four-year degree now may need workforce certification and extended skills. For example, an electrician who starts his own company and earns a business degree can improve his chance of success while broadening exposure, perspective, and possible client base. That’s the type of education Holy Family is known for providing, such as our MBA program for New Professionals, which enables students with less professional experience than traditional MBA students to develop business skills that are essential to professional success.

Going back to our motto, teneor votis (I am bound by my responsibilities), it is the mission of our university to first show prospective students the value of higher education, and then to deliver on that promise to our students. The benefit for us as a society is immeasurable.