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University of Missouri System president, MU chancellor kick off third full year of Show Me Value Tour in Boone County

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Christian Basi

September 23, 2015

Tour promotes the value of higher education to Missouri students, business and community leaders

COLUMBIA, Mo. – University of Missouri System President Tim Wolfe, joined by University of Missouri-Columbia (MU) Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin, began the third full school year of his Show Me Value Tour today with stops in Ashland and Columbia, continuing the conversation Wolfe began with Missourians more than two years ago to counter growing sentiment that a college education is not as valuable as it once was.

Wolfe visited Lange Middle School in Columbia, his latest stop on the tour that began in March 2013. Since then, the president has visited 21 communities across the state including today’s stops in Ashland and Columbia, speaking to more than 6,000 middle and junior high school students about the importance of a college education. Today’s stop was the second full year since the tour was expanded to include each chancellor of the UM System’s four campuses; today, MU Chancellor Loftin joined the president for a morning meeting with community leaders in Ashland, and also made his own presentation this morning on the value of a college degree to eighth graders at Southern Boone Middle School.

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, the president visited with the leadership of one of Columbia’s most innovative employers, ABC Labs, to discuss workforce issues.

“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.”