The Value of a University Education

As Universities across the country were under fire, “Is a college degree really worth it” was a question every university president was being asked. Few presidents had compelling answers.

Dr. Andrea Mascioli, president of a regional university asked Andrew Smithson of their alumni association to find stories of alumni success to help her defend the university’s value.

That’s what led him to the offices of Carolyn Thacker, CEO of a Fortune 500 company and graduate of his university. Her office was modest for someone of her stature, but one thing stood out. It was a picture of employees standing around a cabinet with a young Carolyn in the middle. He decided to start the interview by asking her about that picture.

“Funny you should ask,” said Carolyn. “I keep that picture there because it was the secret to my success.”

“How so?” asked Andrew.

“When I came to college, I had no money. I approached my freshman orientation instructor for help. He helped me develop a plan to finance my college education. He became my lifetime mentor. I had no parental guidance. In fact, I didn’t know where they were. My college dorm room was the first place I lived for more than two months.”

 “WOW!! What a story. You were lucky to find such a helpful member of the faculty. But tell me about the cabinet.”

“The financial plan involved a co-op in a company, and that cabinet was a recommendation I made. It really made the business work better. It also gave me confidence. And that co-op led to other job opportunities.”

 As he reflected on the interview, Andrew realized that what Carolyn was telling him was confirmed by a recent Gallup survey.

When he presented his interview to the president and her cabinet along with the Gallup survey, the room was silent. Then the provost spoke up: “That was inspiring but that’s just not the direction we’ve been going. If we follow the path that led to Carolyn’s success, we will never rise in the rankings of universities.”

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“A mentor is someone who allows you to see the hope inside yourself.” – Oprah Winfrey

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