A letter from WAICU President Dr. Rolf Wegenke

WHAT IS COLLEGE FOR?

Education leader Judith Shapiro said, “The best reason to care about college—who goes and what happens to the people when they get there—is not what it does for society in economic terms but what it can do for individuals, in both calculable and incalculable ways. The best chance we have to maintain a functioning democracy is a citizenry that can tell the difference between demagoguery and responsible arguments. College opens the senses as well as the mind to experiences that otherwise would be foreclosed to people. It enriches the capacity to read demanding works of literature, to grasp fundamental political ideas, heightened and deepened alertness to color and form, melody and harmony. You want the inside of your head to be an interesting place to spend the rest of your life.”

WILL I GET A JOB?

At this point, you may be thinking—or, perhaps, shouting—all well and good, but will I get a job? The answer is yes. In April of 2013 the New York Times reported data from Haver Analytics which showed that the unemployment rate for college graduates was 3.9 percent, compared to 7.5 percent for everyone else. As a matter of fact, college graduates are the only group in which more people are employed today than when the “Great Recession” began. The number of college-educated workers with jobs has risen by 9.1 percent while the employment numbers for those with a high school diploma have fallen by 9 percent in the same period. College graduates will earn $964,000 more over their lifetimes than those without a degree. Moreover, not only do college graduates earn more over their lifetimes and have more satisfaction in their careers, they are also healthier, have stronger families, volunteer more, and are more engaged in the civic and cultural life of their communities.

Let me suggest another answer to the question of what college is for: College is not about either/or, the “calculable and incalculable,” about learning for its own sake vs. learning for a job; it is about all of the above, and more.

 In pursuing your own dreams, don’t be diverted or distracted by false, self-limiting choices. Wisconsin’s private, nonprofit colleges: “From here you can go anywhere.”

Rolf Wegenke

 


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