Degree takeaways for the Class of 2013


Thomas L. Keon

Purdue Calumet’s spring Class of 2013 is earning some 943 degrees. We rejoice in that achievement and congratulate our graduates. Yet, the celebration of graduation at college and university campuses across our nation may be a bit more reserved this spring that usual.

As we have read and heard, the news media has been quick to report that there is a disconnect between future jobs and college degrees, that degrees are not paying off for millions of college grads, and that an investment in higher education is far from a guarantee of future success and aspiration.

Reason to be encouraged

Among many, frustrated college and university graduates who are doing far less with the baccalaureate degree they worked so hard and paid so much to earn, the term “underemployment” has come to define their lives during current times.

Yet, while our still stagnant economy continues to keep a lid over many exciting job and career opportunities for college graduates, there is plenty of reason to be encouraged about prospects for the Class of 2013.

Bigger picture

The first and most obvious reason is what we already know and what continues to be revealed to us through data. Regardless of the state of our economy, the unemployment rate among college grads remains substantially lower than for those without higher education.

But for the remainder of this message, I prefer to expand the parameters of return on investment beyond jobs and paychecks. In an article published in the April 22 issue of The Chronicle of Higher Education, headlined, “How to Assess the Real Payoff of a College Degree,” senior writer Scott Carlson and his sources remind us that lest we focus exclusively on the so-called “golden ticket” to employment, we lose sight of the bigger picture of personal growth benefits that higher education affords.

Beyond jobs & $$$

Borrowing and summarizing from Carlson’s piece, here are some of the notable takeaways for college/university graduates from their degree-earning experience:

  • Opened doors of opportunity not otherwise available;
  • Intellectual and social growth;
  • Acquisition of knowledge while forming personal views of our world;
  • Skill development within a challenging, supportive environment;
  • Learning derived within a diverse environment that enables contributions of national and international purposes;
  • Rich societal benefits;
  • Dress rehearsal for life beyond campus; and
  • Pushing the envelope of one’s passion, fueled by a strong work ethic of follow-through.

Finally, quoting Carlson, “. . . a single-minded focus on money pays little heed to one of the best aspects of the American higher-education system: its skill at developing curious, critical-thinking, culturally aware people. Those qualities may have greater financial rewards than critics realize.”

My congratulations and best wishes to the Class of 2013.



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Thomas L. Keon,