Special Reports

February 28, 2013

Karla Fisher: What is the value of a college education?

Every organization strives to demonstrate its value. It’s how we measure worth, determine investment and

Every organization strives to demonstrate its value. It’s how we measure worth, determine investment and

remain relevant to our stakeholders.

Higher education is at the forefront of this value conversation, and whether you’re the president of the United States or the president of your senior class, the answer to this question is significant.

Rising costs and escalating student loan debt have led some to question the value of a traditional college education. The rapid pace of technology change adds a new surge of expectations that impact the perception of value.

The proliferation and adoption of new media creates profound, yet unpredictable, potential at the demanding intersection of technology and education.

At Butler Community College, intentional collaboration, innovative partnerships and strategic planning are powerful tools for creating value. While affordability, accessibility, and employability are key to our strategic framework, we recognize it is imperative for Butler to demonstrate value. Our Board of Trustees expects it, our tax base demands it, and our students deserve it.

Our value is defined as a measurable impact on earning power, return on investment and workforce development. In a report released in October by the Society for Human Resource Management and Achieve, a nonprofit education advocacy group based in Washington, D.C., the importance of higher education and technical training for the job skills that employers need has increased considerably in the past 10 years and will only continue to increase.

According to the Kansas Association of Community College Trustees (KACCT), half of the jobs expected to grow most significantly in the coming years will require postsecondary training or degree. KACCT estimates that training for 60 percent of those jobs can be delivered by community colleges, and community colleges will likely play a prominent role in the remaining 40 percent through transferability.

Through an economic growth and investment model using national EMSI data, Butler consistently demonstrates a solid return on investment, contributing to the vitality of local and state economies. Year after year, we continue to increase lifetime incomes of students.

In fact, every dollar they invest at Butler, they will realize $4.70 in higher future earnings. Higher earnings not only benefit the individual and his or her family, but the community, as well, in the form of increased tax revenue and reduced dependence on tax-supported social services.

Increased individual earnings, economic growth and the ongoing development of a skilled workforce are measurable results of a community college education – that’s delivering value for today and for the future.

Finding the value of higher education is most obvious from the student perspective. For our students, coming to Butler means making an investment in return for a better future supported by a lifetime of higher earnings.

Keeping education affordable is the first factor in this equation and an important measure for what makes community colleges a superior value. The average tuition for one year at a community college is roughly half that of a public four-year institution. The value of this cost savings allows Butler students to enjoy a 13.8 percent return on their investment. Additionally, with 27 percent of Butler students successfully transferring to a four-year institution, many are reinvesting the savings in their educations.

Former U.S. Secretary of Education Richard Riley called community colleges “one place where we are out in front of other countries.” We couldn’t agree more.

Inspired by our students who invest so heavily to achieve their goals and by the communities that support our mission, we are committed to demonstrating value through a strong return on investment for years to come.

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