Is there value in higher education?

Guest Correspondence

There is a national narrative right now questioning the value of higher education, the role of community colleges, and the process of enrollment and retention of students. What does a degree really offer? Should college enrollment be that difficult?

Yet, many of us know from personal experience of having “been there, done that” that any higher education, including an undergraduate degree, affords us more personal time, higher pay and professional opportunities. This became evident for a recent State College of Florida, Manatee-Sarasota outstanding graduate finalist, Blake, who shared he worked on tugboats, putting in long hours with strenuous labor as he entered the workforce right after high school. Eventually, he realized if he was going to work that hard, it might as well be toward getting a college degree, and he graduated this Spring from SCF with an associate degree and two Python Programming certifications.

Studies show that individuals who obtain college degrees have, over their lifetime, more wealth, a wider support network of peers, enhanced skillsets, resiliency during a recession, and the ability to reinvent themselves throughout their careers.

These studies also reflect that college graduates make wiser choices for saving, borrowing, and investing money; buying homes; and planning for retirement. There is an adage, “You can’t know what no one’s told you.” Or, more apropos in this scenario, “what no one’s taught you.” 

Students learn critical thinking and come to appreciate the importance of the interdependencies of the liberal arts, finance, statistics, and, most critically, social skills. Ask any higher education professional, and they will tell you that the more a student is engaged and socializes, the more likely they will succeed.

Earning a degree is hard work and requires persistence from a student and their support network. As with any industry, there are rules and regulations that make up a complex infrastructure. However, at SCF, we adapt each year to make higher education accessible to students despite family, financial or learning barriers. 

Battalion Chief for Sarasota County Emergency Services, Miguel Garcia ’11, ’18, shares that “SCF has made him a better firefighter, paramedic, officer, neighbor, husband and father!” He credits the college will honing his verbal, written and research skills and opening a network of local connections that have helped his professional development. But, most importantly, he’s learned patience, compassion and perseverance.

As our education system evolves to adapt to the new socio-economic norms and industry needs, we must maintain sight of the historical importance and value of what education offers. We should also not polarize the meaning of its value to serve a short-term purpose. We should work together as a community and with our local and state legislators each year to improve the system. 

SCF offers several programs that aim to increase access catered to the student. Through financial assistance, student life programs, and community collaboration programs such as our “College Reach Out Program,” 2+2 partnerships with state universities, collegiate schools, honors programs, “Bridge to Baccalaureate,” and dual enrollment, students of any age at any point in their higher education journey have an opportunity to start or continue their education affordably.

At SCF, we know not everyone will attend college. However, we believe everyone should be able to do so and to pursue careers that motivate and fulfill them, serve our community, and positively impact our society.

Dr. Carol F. Probstfeld is President of State College of Florida, Manatee-Sarasota.

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