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UMN Crookston Chancellor: The Newness of the Year

Submitted by Mary Holz-Clause
Crookston Times

    In many communities the birth of the first baby of the year receives press coverage. Covering such an event builds upon our optimism as people--The starting of “new and fresh.” The eternal optimism of what a new life or a new year can bring.  

    As you reflect upon the newness of the year, what about you? Your potential? The goals you can set. Things you can do.

    We all come into the world with great possibilities … and life happens. Disappointments may occur. Perhaps someone once told us “we wouldn’t amount to anything,” and dented our spirit.  Circumstances changed, we had responsibilities, time constraints, etc. There are so many reasons why we may not or didn’t act on our life’s potential and set goals, try new things … challenge ourselves.

Learning New Skills and Challenging Ourselves

    Each of us can learn new skills, consider new ideas or even consider getting a degree a little later in life. Even me. I finished my Ph.D. when I was 50 and now am taking up woodworking under the tutelage of my husband.  Although I have to admit getting the degree was easier for me than overcoming a lifetime of no mechanical aptitude, learning how to use the machines and getting over the fear they “will eat me alive.”

    We have more than 1,200 online students at the University of Minnesota Crookston, whose average age is 32 years old who have decided to challenge themselves. Why would they bother to get a college degree? Obviously there are many personal and professional reasons why they would have enrolled but many are finding the ease of obtaining their degrees online while working, raising a family or battling an illness. They have made the decision to get their degree and enjoy this personal achievement. The benefits of a college degree are well documented.

Value of a Degree

    Education attainment remains the most obvious contributor to the development of human capital and knowledge capital.  A bachelor's degree is:

    • worth $2.8 million on average over a lifetime;

    • earn 31 percent more than those with an associate's degree; and

    • bring home more than 84 percent more than those with just a high school diploma

    There is still no better investment than a four-year degree, with annual returns greater than 15 percent by some estimates, college education offers twice the return for corporate bonds, treasury bills and even housing.

    The unemployment rate of those with only a high school diploma is nearly twice that of those who have obtained a bachelor’s degree. There is no better safeguard against poverty than the attainment of a bachelor’s degree.

    Divorce rates for college graduates are plummeting, but the divorce rate for high school grads is now twice as high as that of college graduates; High school grads are twice as likely to smoke as college graduates and much less likely to exercise. College graduates are twice as likely to vote, to-do voluntary work and give blood. These things make life’s journey a little easier.

    These are just a few of the personal benefits. Having a populace with people who are educated and trained also benefits the region and state.

Good for the Region

    There is a clear relationship between growth in degree attainment and the prosperity of a state.  When a state or region does not develop its human capital infrastructure it cannot grow or attract high-value industries. If industries can’t find the talent pool they need, they will seek other locations. States such as Washington, Colorado, Utah and Oregon for instance have a high attainment of bachelor’s degrees and have a higher per capita output in their economies.

    If the people in the region do not have the credentials and skills necessary to obtain higher-paying jobs, they are forced to take jobs in industries that offer lower wages.

    But I can’t afford a college degree and why would they want me?

    You say college maybe isn’t for you or in the picture for one of your family members? Think of it this way. Potential is distributed throughout the population. It manifests itself through skills, abilities and experiences. At the University of Minnesota Crookston we teach based upon those principles. We encourage in our classrooms building upon students' experiences, not just book smarts. We value the life you bring into our classrooms (virtual or in person). You provide real life  ideas, experiences and add mature and lifelived perspective to the discussion.

    Don’t just assume college is out of the picture for you. Many people qualify for assistance. We can help you navigate through the process. We also have been fortunate lately to have several alums and friends of the University give us funds to help individuals financially, so they can attend the University of Minnesota Crookston. Their gifts are directed to returning adults and those that see the benefits of the degree and

need assistance to obtain the degree.

Consider Acting On a New Year’s Resolution

    I ask you to consider not just talking about obtaining a college degree—but acting on the notion.  

    If not the degree—take up a new idea, thought or skill.

    By the way--I will keep you posted on my woodworking progress.

UMN Crookston Chancellor Mary Holz-Clause