With the increasing concern about the cost of college, some question the return on investment of a college degree and even the value of colleges themselves. I believe there is value in both.
For individuals, the exact return on investment will vary based on a number of factors, but generally there is significant value not only to the graduate but to the larger community as well. According to a study by the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, a full-time, full-year worker with a bachelor’s degree will earn an average of $2.3 million over the span of a 40-year career, compared to $1.3 million for someone with a high school diploma. An associate’s degree holder will fall in between, with expected earnings of $1.7 million.
A 2013 report issued by the Economic Policy Institute makes the case that increasing the educational level of the population leads to better-paying jobs, resulting in more tax revenues and consumer spending, thus providing a significant economic benefit to the community that far exceeds the cost of a college education. The report also cites research finding that higher levels of education correspond to improved health; lower rates of mortality, crime and poverty; and less reliance on public assistance.
So, how do we encourage more high school graduates to continue their education? Students often express concerns about cost, time, convenience, lack of options and other issues when making decisions about college. Leaders at Eckerd College, New College of Florida, Ringling College of Art and Design, The Ringling, State College of Florida Manatee-Sarasota and the University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee have formed the Consortium of Colleges on the Creative Coast, better known as C4, and one of our goals is to make college attainable, with many options and resources available here in our community. Highly skilled staff members are available at each institution to assist students with developing a college plan that fits their particular circumstances.
Among us, we offer a wide range of options, including certificate, two-year, four-year and graduate programs; public and private institutions; residential and commuter campuses; and online and face-to-face learning environments. Collectively we offer 171 degree and certificate programs, and are working on allowing students to cross-register for classes under certain conditions. Our financial aid officers can assist students in exploring funding options to help defray some of the expense, and in some cases cover the entire amount.
Examples of assistance for which students might qualify include Florida Pre-Pay, Florida Bright Futures Scholarships, scholarships for first-generation college students, federal grants and loans, funds to assist active military personnel and veterans and their dependents, work-study jobs on campus, and privately funded scholarships, both merit- and need-based.
Further, a new arrangement that makes staying local even more attractive is the opportunity for qualified high-achieving high school students to earn their high school diploma and an associate’s degree tuition-free through the State College of Florida Collegiate School, then transfer to USFSM and receive a scholarship for the cost of tuition and fees for the next two years to complete their bachelor’s degree. A bachelor’s degree at no cost for tuition and fees with an expected earning potential of $2.3 million is definitely a value!
Another goal of the C4 institutions is to serve the local community in collaborative partnerships that enhance and expand social, cultural and economic capital. In addition to providing skilled workers, our institutions offer 522 full-time faculty, many who serve as consultants and conduct research on relevant issues; students who engage in service learning and volunteer activities; a variety of social and cultural events open to the public; and so much more.
Together with community partners, the C4 group is striving to create a “college town” environment that will encourage more students to stay local during and after college, as well as attract more development to the local area. Through increased collaboration and shared resources, the C4 institutions are true assets to the community, contributing significantly to the improvement of the quality of life for us all. What better return on investment could we ask for?
Dr. Sandra Stone is the Regional Chancellor of USF Sarasota-Manatee and a member of the Consortium of Colleges on the Creative Coast.
New column debuts
Today marks the debut of a monthly column, Spotlight on Higher Education. Four Manatee-Sarasota colleges along with The Ringling and Eckerd College have united to form the Consortium of Colleges on the Creative Coast. The leaders of these institutions will write about their school’s rich array of programs and the collaborations among schools. The goal is educating the community about these premier institutions and the opportunities they offer.