University of Missouri System President Tim Wolfe will launch his Show Me Value tour today in Moberly, Mo., as a way to begin to counter growing sentiment that a college education is not as valuable as it once was.
Focused on communicating the value of higher education to Missouri’s middle and high school students—as well as community members—Wolfe will spend the day in Moberly talking with students about the innumerable benefits of going to college before meeting with education, business, civic and political leaders about barriers to college attainment, followed by a tour of a local business to discuss workforce development needs.
“I continue to firmly believe that a college education is a person’s greatest opportunity to a successful life,” Wolfe said. “By any measure—income, prosperity, health—a college education has a profound impact on an individual, which in turn can have a tremendous boost to communities, culture and our state as a whole. There is simply no greater investment you can make in yourself than higher education.”
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 a little more than a year ago. 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.
In reality, Wolfe said, 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 their lifetime as someone with just 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 said, a college education is also a place to discover your talents, hone your strengths, think creatively and strategically, and be able to work in teams—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, 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.”
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“Missouri has a very strong and diversified system of higher education. More than 200 public, private and proprietary colleges and universities serve students with widely varied academic interests,” Russell elaborated. “A student will be well served by any college they choose to attend in the state.”
Wolfe agrees. “As a son of two college professors, a college graduate myself, university president—but most importantly, the father of two high school seniors—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 the better for it.”
Editor’s note: UM President Wolfe’s next Show Me Value stop will be in St. Joseph, Missouri, March 22.