A recent article in the Chronicle called, “How to assess the real payoff of a college degree” highlights a slightly controversial idea being discussed in higher education circles around the nation: the Return on Investment in Higher Education.  In other words, what is the “value” of college?  Is it worth it?

Proponents of this measure are looking at a college degree in terms of starting salaries after you graduate or potential earning in whatever field you’ve chosen, all in light of the rising cost of college, which contributes to the ever-increasing debt among students, and the economy, which may or may not be producing job opportunities to help you pay off all your debt.  On paper, this seemingly endless cycle seems pretty bleak and is not very promising for the future of higher education.

In addition, new efforts by our government are requiring colleges to report exactly what the return on investment will be for students.  The Student Right to Know Before You Go Act and President Obama’s College Scorecard are just two examples of how we are trying to hold colleges and universities accountable for their outcomes.

Here at the Career Development Center, it’s to everyone’s benefit that we track our progress and successes.  How many students walk through our doors?  How many of those students have interview and job offers?  How about our 2012 data which shows we posted over 1000 new jobs, had 150 employers to campus, held more than a dozen workshops and programs, and participated in 2 career fairs.  Those are pretty strong numbers if you ask me.

Which brings me to why I have chosen to respond to these ideas.  We are investing in your future.  It’s our job, in fact.  But – what are YOU investing in YOUR future?  Is it providing you the return you expect?

This idea of Return on Investment: let’s break it down.

First, you have your return.  So, what are you getting from your college degree?  How are you better off  now from when you began here at Loyola? Have you grown, developed, learned something about yourself?  College graduates, especially those with liberal arts degrees, tend to be more engaged in civic and community life; they tend to be curious, critical-thinking, culturally aware people; they are the folks who end up in the CEO positions.  Of course, many other factors influence this success, and it takes a long time to get there, but those are the returns that shouldn’t be brushed aside.

While at college, you learn how to learn.

A college education is not the same thing as job training.  You can learn specific skills and techniques of any career at any time, but the skills that employers really look for, such as communication, teamwork, critical thinking, leadership – those are the things that each of you can develop here at Loyola, and many of you have.

And what about those unmeasurable returns?  What about a biology student who goes on to medical school and practices in poor, underserved area?  What about a teacher at a low-performing school who encourages others to attend college?  These returns can’t be overlooked!

By far, employers report that they look for experience in job candidates.  Which brings us to the second part of our topic: The Investment.  Is what you’re putting into Loyola really only your money?  What about your time?  What about your energy?

Now, if you view college as a play, where you show up and watch, well then, it sounds like you aren’t investing too much, and so might not see too much of a return.  But, I’d like to spend my time talking about those of you who are investing more in your education.  Those of you who understand that a higher investment equals a higher return.

So, what’s your engagement here at Loyola?  Or in the community?  Have you used any of the campus resources, like the WAC lab?  The ARC? Or – hey! The Career Development Center? Have you introduced yourself to your professors? Have you volunteered to help them with special projects or research? Have you done an internship? Have you conducted any informational interviews with professionals you admire? Have you connected with some of those professionals on social media platforms such as LinkedIn? Do you even have a LinkedIn profile? Have you studied abroad? Have you participated in or attended some of the campus events, such as Take Back the Night or a volleyball game?  Have you put yourself outside of your comfort zone at least once?  Have you challenged yourself?

These are all examples of how to ACTIVELY invest in your future?  Investing in college is not a passive activity.  And guess what – the more you invest, the more your return will be!

The challenge is that you may not see the return on your investment immediately.  It may not even be a tangible return.  But, trust me – the return is real.  If you invest, you will have a return.  And here’s the awesome thing – you can all start investing now!  It’s never too late to invest!  Start now!  Make an appointment with the Career Development Center or with a professional you admire for an informational interview.  Email your professor and thank him or her for a great semester.  Send out a connection request to that professional you met the other day at a coffee shop.  Start investing!

I’m not trying to discount or ignore your mounting debt or your frustration with the job search.  I’m in the same boat, so I understand what you’re facing.  But, I also come from the mindset that you have the ability to determine your future.  Just because people keep talking about the tough economy or the rising cost of education, doesn’t mean you have to be a victim of it.

I’d love to hear about how you’re investing in your future.  Make an appointment, email or stop by for drop-in hours.  Have a great summer and start investing!

Kelly

*This is the text version of a Video-Blog that appeared on the EMPLOYOLA_Surge blog on May 8th.

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