In a new article in today’s New York Times (6/26/11 Sunday Review Section page 3) David Leonhardt makes a strong case of the economic value of a college degree. Leonhardt makes a compelling case foe the value of a degree citing statistics and studies that indicate that even low paying jobs like a dishwasher pays off with a degree. In fact, a dishwasher with a degree can make a median salary of $34,000 (Wonder why anyone wants to be a teacher just for the money if washing dishes pays more?)
“The evidence is overwhelming that college is a better investment for most graduates than in the past. A new study even shows that a bachelor’s degree pays off for jobs that don’t require one: secretaries, plumbers and cashiers. And, beyond money, education seems to make people happier and healthier.” And then he goes on to cite the studies and the numbers. Makes a good case for the value of a degree.
So with the issue somewhat settled by studies and real numbers that a college degree can be a good investment in terms of paying off in the long run, why do we let to many students drop out. Yes, LET and in many cases cause them to drop out. Let and cause because we know that 84% of students leaves colleges and universities due to academic customer services issues. Customer service issues come about when the customer – the student – interacts with the institution and the people within it. Or as Pogo said “We have met the enemy and they are us”.
We are the major reason why students leave and do not get the benefit of completion and a degree. And we do not get the benefit of their completion and degree. After all, if students do not complete and graduate, they never become alumni and the probability of them donating is…well close to zero.
But let’s not focus on our benefit and focus on theirs.
If we realize that we have a great deal to do with a student’s decision to stay engaged in college and graduate, we can have a great effect on completion rates. Right now they are dismal at some schools and generally poor for all schools. We have the greatest ability to make a student stay in school and graduate just by providing some good customer service.
Knowing that, isn’t it worth it to spend a little extra time helping a student succeed no matter what the task? Isn’t it worth it to return a phone call promptly? To stay around after a class to see if there are any lagging students who are hanging back to ask a question? To stop doing what we are doing when a student comes in and immediately wait on the student? To smile and listen to students? To just say hello to each one we pass in the hall off on campus? To have an attendance policy that says we really do care about their success? To always have time for a student? And all that other academic customer service stuff that ends up in doing what we need to do to show students we really do care from just offering a hand to mentoring a student.
Never mind that keeping more students in school will make you much more money to fund the institution. It will make each student more money when they graduate and get a job as Leonhardt makes clear. And that means a better life for all of us. And it means we actually make the mission more than a jumble of high minded words on a page. It also gives us all more meaning and value.
Please feel free to share this piece with colleagues. Thanks
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