Wednesday, October 3, 2012

college education - the conversation continues

The cupola at Elizabeth Hall, Stetson U
esterday’s post about top-notch higher education may have started out as a “Fun-times showing our niece around Stetson” report, but by the time I was done the writing had evolved into commentary vis-a-vis the danger of a widening gap between means and opportunity.
PART TWO: Consequently, the subject is begging for a follow-up post. Some great questions have been raised, a few passionately held opinions have been shared, and my learning-curve continues. This is the kind of dialogue that enriches the ongoing conversation.
Fact is, a great deal is already being done toward the goal of equal access. More than one reader pointed out the plethora of scholarships and grants, the value of utilizing Florida’s Bright Futures program, the availability of more affordable state schools, and other options such as joining the military.
A couple of emails talked about what its like to make too much family income to qualify for many of the grants and scholarships, but not enough to pay for a quality small residential Liberal Arts experience.
Stetson University
PRESIDENTIAL INSIGHT: I even heard from Stetson’s esteemed President, Dr. Wendy Libby. She wrote that, “The national average debt for undergraduate private college education is approximately $25,000 and not $100K. Stetson is right around the national average. So I think that does change the calculus for many young people.”
Dr. Libby also stressed the fact that Stetson University provides over $49 million in financial aid. Yes, she said forty-nine million dollars.
“Private universities across the country,” Stetson’s president wrote, “are making an investment in the coming generations whose young people will inherit and change our world for the better.”
COMPLEX: Of course, both the challenges and the solutions are complex; over-simplification is always inaccurate; any blanket statement is a misstatement; and the variables change every time a new family faces the prospect of paying for college.
BUT… we live in a “sound-bite” society, where blog entries and news stories fail to sustain interest much beyond 600 words. Regardless of content, 68-page single-spaced research papers don’t get the message across, and they won’t do much to voice the challenge we all face to utilize our resources more responsibility, to invest in our future with more imagination, and to fight the tendency of hard times to polarize society economically, and weaken the so-called (there’s got to be a better phrase) “middle class.”
We must: Utilize our resources more responsibly; Invest in our future with more imagination; and Fight the tendency of hard times to polarize society economically, and weaken the “middle class.”
Looking toward Elizabeth Hall
BOTTOM LINE: Granted, every family must live with its own unique economic reality, and there are many options available that could (possibly) pave the way for more students like my niece to attend schools like Stetson University.
I’d simply like to point out that, while citizens of the USA are among the most generous on the planet, the majority of people still have a lot of room to grow when it comes to philanthropy. Call it an investment in the future, or a more deliberate commitment to creating a world where young people of the caliber and vision of my niece Jordan can enter adulthood having received the absolutely-best-and-most-appropriate education for their unique gifts and potential.
At the soccer alumni game last year
Again, I have to say that the future will be brighter for all of us to the extent that we (as a nation) recalibrate what it is that we value, eschew personal greed and corporate waste, and put more of our resources to work on behalf of the very best that education has to offer.
In the confidence of hope and promise – for all our children – DEREK

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