Its time for my alma mater, South Dakota School of Mines and Technology, to have their 5-year all school reunion and I won’t be there. I had already committed to my son that we would be going to Cub Scout camp again this year at Lewis & Clark Scout Camp at Yankton as it is his last year as a Cub Scout and his friends will be going to this one as well. This kills me but at my age I am sure the bar trips the first night would have rendered me useless for the rest of the week anyway, but I sure am going to miss seeing the guys as I really suck at keeping in touch with great friends. Guess I just have to wait until next week to hear the stories from the local fraternity brothers who are going – be safe guys and have fun.
But thinking about college – recently I came across this article in Business Week comparing the best college values in the country so I had to check out where SDSM&T came in – and at a national level, we came in lower than I expected but it wasn’t hard to see why based on their formula
While we came in solidly in first place for South Dakota, our National return on Investment ranking was 288 which seemed so wrong – in fact, based on latest college statistics, SDSM&T is the best value in the country since based on data analysis, it appears that the School of Mines may well be the only university in the nation where starting salaries for graduates average the total cost of a four-year degree.
So this Business week article had me confused until I dig a little deeper and see where our college’s graduation rate is just 37% – and Business Weeks ROI calculation takes that into account – now our ROI which had been higher than Notre Dame and other more prestigious colleges takes a beating as they ding us for our graduation rate – but as far as I am concerned, if it were easy to graduate with a degree, the overall value would probably be worth much less – but that did remind me of my first day in Physics class as a freshman where our professor told us to look at who was sitting on the left and right of us as half of them would not be there next year – turns out he was correct. But its quotes like this that remind me why we appreciate our college – "The School of Mines remains the least expensive yet academically demanding college or university in the United States. Our annual national college survey of 1,451 accredited, residential institutions shows this to be a fact," Lewis Lindsay, Jr., president of Institutional Research & Evaluation, Inc., said. "The School of Mines provides an exceptional opportunity to students from across the United States. High quality and low cost will continue to draw the best and brightest students from far and near."
Now I value my college education and in fact, it is difficult to get an interview with our company for a software developer position without a Computer Science bachelors degree but I have been on the “college costs are unsustainable” bandwagon for awhile. More and more you find studies like this one which debate the return on investment of a college education – these studies take the amount of money invested in college expenses and compare the paths of people who take that amount of money and get a job right out of high school and have that money invested versus though that spend that money in a college education and pay that money back once they have their first job post college – and its not a clear cut choice anymore for all people.
The key for me (and my children) is there is still a very high probability that the only jobs that they will be passionate for and want to do for the rest of their lives will be jobs that still require a college education, and that they would be prevented from entering certain careers that appeal to them without a degree – so even if the investment is break even – the benefit of a degree and the freedom it provides you to pursue a much greater variety of jobs is still crucial. But yet, how can the rising costs of education that triple or quadruple the standard rate of inflation be sustainable – I just really see the day when some degrees become 2-3 year programs and the days of 4-6 year college educations becoming less the norm.
But until then – public college educations are still a great investment in ones future (if you know what you want to do – And isn’t that the real issue – knowing what one wants to do and will like pursuing? – get that one figured out and usually your path gets alot clearer as to what needs to be done to achieve it.
And guys – please raise your thundermugs up high for me as well as I’ll be battling mosquitoes and buffalo gnats with 200 other cub scouts and parents down along the Missouri River during your SDSM&T celebrations. Take care.