Tour promotes the value of higher education to Missouri students, business and community leaders
KIRKSVILLE, Mo. – University of Missouri System President Tim Wolfe resumed his Show Me Value Tour today with a stop in Kirksville, continuing the conversation he began with Missourians nearly two years ago to counter growing sentiment that a college education is not as valuable as it once was.
Wolfe visited William Matthew Middle School, his latest stop on the tour that began in March 2013. Since then, the president has visited 18 communities across the state, including today’s stop in Kirksville, speaking to more than 5,000 middle and junior high school students about the importance of a college education. Today’s stop was the president’s fourth of the current school year following visits to Chillicothe, West Plains and Washington last fall.
Focused on communicating the value of higher education to Missouri’s middle and high school students – as well as community members – Wolfe used today as an opportunity to talk about the innumerable benefits of going to college. In addition, he visited Northeast Regional Medical Center in Kirksville to discuss workforce issues, and participated in a meeting with community leaders.
“I firmly believe that a college education is a person’s greatest opportunity for a successful life,” Wolfe said. “By any measure – income, prosperity, health – a college education has a profound effect on an individual, which in turn can provide a tremendous boost to our communities, culture and state as a whole.”
Wolfe – a graduate of the University of Missouri-Columbia – said he became alarmed that this message was getting lost soon after he became university president in February 2012. In recent years, there has been a growing body of literature that points to increases in student debt and declining job placement rates, which he fears could cause some students to reconsider a college education.
Wolfe said that in reality, insurmountable debt for students following graduation is the exception, rather than the norm, and the alternative of not going to college has more dire consequences than paying off student debt. For instance, a person with a college degree will make nearly twice as much in his or her lifetime as someone with a high school diploma. And the rate of return on a college degree is about 15 percent – compared to the stock market at around 7 percent and the housing market at .4 percent.
At the four campuses of the University of Missouri System, about eight out of 10 students also get some form of financial aid.
Aside from the financial advantages, Wolfe also said that a college education allows students to discover their talents, hone their strengths, think creatively and strategically, and learn to work in teams, which are all skills needed in today’s workforce, regardless of the job. College graduates also lead healthier, longer lives, on average.
Missouri Commissioner of Higher Education David Russell applauds Wolfe’s willingness to travel the state to promote the value of postsecondary education to students’ future success.
“President Wolfe explains to students how college can change their lives, and then tells them it is up to them to decide which of Missouri’s many colleges and universities is right for them,” Russell said. “It is an important message that our young people need to hear.”
“Missouri has a very strong and diversified system of higher education, with more than 200 public, private and proprietary colleges and universities serving students with widely-varied academic interests,” Russell elaborated. “A student will be well served by any college they choose to attend in the state.”
“As a son of two college professors, a college graduate myself, university president and – most importantly, the father of two college students – I urge all Missouri students to think about college when they consider their future,” Wolfe said. “Whatever their life ambition, a college education can truly help make their dreams a reality – and we as a society will be better off for it.”