By College President Dr. Jorge L. Díaz-Herrera
As predictable as students returning to their college classrooms every fall is the attack on the value of a college education—in particular a liberal arts education—in print.
What makes the latest round of punches surprising is the person throwing them. It’s hard to believe that one of the nation’s leading experts on work and the economy and a graduate of Dartmouth, Oxford, and Yale would pen a piece titled “College is a Ludicrous Waste of Money.”
But that is exactly what Robert Reich, former secretary of labor under President Clinton and current Chancellor’s Professor of Public Policy at the Goldman School of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley did in a recent issue of Salon.
Professor Reich’s piece came on the heels of “For Some Graduates, College Isn’t Worth the Debt,” written by The Wall Street Journal’s Doug Belkin. In terms of name recognition, Belkin doesn’t pack the wallop Reich does, but his vehicle wields a lot more influence—not to mention readers—than Salon.
Professor Reich gets right to the point, stating that “a four-year liberal arts education is hugely expensive” and “too many young people graduate laden with debts that take years if not decades to pay off.”
As president of Keuka College, I will speak from an independent college perspective only. I disagree with the esteemed Professor Reich. In 2011-12, more than 25 percent of students who graduated with a bachelor’s degree from a four-year independent college or university did not have any debt at all and the average debt load was $19,500. And here is one of the reasons: independent colleges give students nearly six times as much institutional grant aid as does the federal government.
Belkin weighs in on the debt issue, writing “…one in 10 borrowers is 90 days late on payments.” Perhaps, but the average student loan default rate for independent college graduates is only 5.2 percent.
Belkin states that “roughly a quarter of college graduates with jobs are earning barely more than those with only a high-school diploma.” This is deceiving, since our country is still recovering from a severe economic downturn. But here’s some numbers Belkin did not mention: lifetime earnings of college degree holders range from $700,000 to $1 million more than those who have only a high school diploma.
Professor Reich asserts that “too often in America we equate ‘equal opportunity’ with an opportunity to get a four-year liberal arts degree; it should equate to “an opportunity to learn what’s necessary to get a good job.” You are right on both counts, Professor Reich. A college degree provides the best opportunity to get a good job.
Professor Reich isn’t off base with his contention that “we’ve allowed vocational and technical education to be downgraded and denigrated.” However, to put the blame on “our aspirations to increasingly focus on four-year college degrees” is way off base.
Why do technical and liberal arts educations have to be mutually exclusive? The fact is many liberal arts colleges are infusing some level of vocationalism into their curricula. At Keuka College, we are combining digital with liberal arts. Our graduates will understand the basic canon of our civilization and how to explore and communicate their ideas using modern tools through interactive visual communication, data manipulation and analytics.
As the late Steve Jobs said, “… it’s technology married with liberal arts, married with the humanities, that yields us the results that make our heart sing.”
I hope that Professor Reich did not write the headline for his opinion piece. It would be ludicrous to believe that one of the 10 most effective cabinet secretaries of the last century, according to TIME magazine, actually believes college is a waste of money.
Keuka College’s Phillips Lounge (in Dahlstrom Student Center) received a much-needed face-lift over the summer. A grand opening ceremony was held Monday, Sept. 22.
Thanks to the leadership of two College Board of Trustees members, Don Wertman and his wife, Chris, and Dr. Barbara Schaefer Allardice ’61 and her husband David, the lounge’s old fireplaces were removed and now features stunning floor-to-ceiling views of Keuka Lake.
The fireplaces were removed in order to maximize space, and the new lounge offers collaborative workspaces, state-of-the-art TVs, a writeable surface wall, and new furniture with built-in charging capabilities.
For more photos of the new lounge click here.
Dr. Jorge L. Díaz-Herrera is now in his fourth year as president of Keuka College.
Doug Lippincott, executive director of grants, government relations, and compliance and host of Keuka College Today interviewed the president Thursday, Aug.28. In a wide-ranging discussion, the president recalled his early days on the job and how confident he is in the College’s ability to “create the liberal arts curriculum for the 21st century,” a goal he outlined in his May 4, 2012 inauguration.
The president also recapped a busy and successful summer, including the College earning a Start-Up NY designation and what it means for the College and Yates County. He discussed the College’s plans to build a Center for Business Analytics and Health Informatics and create a ”college-town experience.” Lippincott also asked the College’s CEO about the future of the international program and Accelerated Studies for Adults Program.
If service is “the rent we pay to be on this earth,” then Lt. Governor Robert Duffy believes the spirit of service epitomized in the Keuka College Class of 2014 is what ought to be held up to children and others as an example.
In his address at the 106th Commencement today, Duffy cited the devastation caused by the storms and floods in Yates County a little over one week ago, and praised the students who volunteered time during the final week of classes to help people in their worst time of need. Nearly 200 College students and staff traveled into Penn Yan and Branchport after the flooding, cleaning out homes and businesses of those impacted and together contributing more than 1,000 service hours.
While the media grants attention to celebrities for little more than what they’re wearing or what event they attend “I would suggest that as opposed to the reality show, “Keeping up with the Kardashians,” maybe ‘Keeping up with Keuka College’ might be a better show,” Duffy said, to rousing applause.
As such, Duffy admitted there was little a typical graduation speech could offer this class in the way of advice: “Folks, there’s nothing I can tell you about what to do – you’ve shown what this world is all about and really, what this day is all about. You’ve proven that, not with words, but with actions. That, to me, speaks volumes of who you are, what you stand for and what this institution stands for.”
The sole suggestion Duffy offered was to create a life worth living, one to be proud of 20 to 50 years down the road, and to use a unique practice – writing your own eulogy—to structure it.
“Sit down and think – what would you want your family, children, spouse, friends, neighbors or coworkers to say about you at that time?” he asked. “Write those words out, then do your best to live that life … now. Live every single day like it’s your last month, and you will do extraordinary things.
“I think this world is ready for you,” Duffy continued. “It’s a tough world out there, but one that needs you, needs good, smart, driven people to come out and help change it. By how you carry yourself and really, with what you did in your spirit of service here in Penn Yan, I think this world, this state and this community is going to be in great shape.”
During the ceremony, Duffy received an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree, presented by Ms. G. Jean Howard-Cherubim, his former Chief of Staff during his tenure as Rochester mayor. Howard-Cherubim was the first female African-American to serve in the Rochester City Chief of Staff role and is currently serving her second term as a member of the Board of Trustees.
An honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree was also presented to sculptor Dexter Benedict, professor emeritus of art, who served the College over a span of 32 years before retiring in 2010. Renowned regionally and nationally for his works, Benedict continues to create fine art through his Fire Works Foundry and Sculpture Studio in Penn Yan.
Also honored during the ceremony was Dr. Catherine Abbott, professor of mathematics, who was named Professor of the Year, and praised as “a dedicated educator who exhibits great enthusiasm for learning and a keen desire” for student success. According to students, Abbott makes courses “exciting and engaging” and always takes time to provide extra help. Indeed, one student cited wrote that were Abbot to be graded, she’d receive an A-plus. Meanwhile, Abbott is credited by her division chair for bringing about transformation of the mathematics department, which has grown during her time there to include three full-time faculty, two majors, and two minors. In addition to strong advising, Abbott regularly supports recruiting activities, and has provided invaluable leadership on faculty governance committees.
In additional activity at Commencement:
• An Award of Higher Education was presented to Oksana Kahl, Amanda Ward and Erica Webb, three students from the DRIVE (Diversity, Respect, Inclusion, Vision and Experiential Learning) program, a collaboration of Penn Yan Central School District, Yates ARC and Keuka College. In the program, Keuka College students serve as peer mentors to young adults with intellectual disabilities as they assimilate into the college environment and explore their personal goals.
• Vickie Tobias, database manager in Informational Technology Services, was named Staff Member of the Year in the award’s inaugural season.
• A new visual identity for the College was unveiled by Dr. Jorge L. Díaz-Herrera, College president, who also praised the class of 2014 for bringing early credibility to the school’s new brand signature, “Believe in What We Can Do Together,” through flood relief efforts.
Keuka College honored veterans and active duty personnel with a Nov. 11 ceremony held in Hegeman 109 and on the lawn near the World War II memorial.
The ceremony featured remarks by College President Jorge L. Díaz-Herrera; Chris Leahy, associate professor of history; Sander Diamond, professor of history; and Linda Park, director of Lightner Library. Eric Detar, College chaplain, offered a prayer of remembrance, and members of the Penn Yan VFW Honor Guard also took part.
Before the ceremony, members of the College and area community signed some 580 holiday cards that will be sent to veterans and active-duty service personnel across America and abroad.
Part of the American Red Cross Holiday Mail for Heroes program, the College campaign was sponsored by the Staff Advisory Council’s (SAC) Events Committee, co-chaired by Paulette Willemsen, secretary for the Division of Education and Division of Social Work, and BJ Hill, office manager for student affairs.
“Writing cards to our service men and women is a good way to spread holiday cheer and make them feel appreciated,” said Willemsen.
Vicki Tobias, database administrator and committee member, agrees.
“I had four brothers, a sister, and now a niece and nephew serve in the military, and I appreciate what they have done and continue to do,” she said.
Committee member Judy Gilmartin, administrative programmer, said writing her name on the cards “makes a more personal contact with a veteran, and I believe everyone should think about all of those in the service, not just those we know.”
Senior Caroline Arancio, an organizational communication major from Clinton, took time to sign a card because her best friend just returned from basic training, and “I want him to know that I am proud of him and support him.”
Olivia Hudson, a junior occupational science major from Adams, “doesn’t think the people in the military get enough credit for all they do,” while Bryan Chaffee, a sophomore criminal justice/criminology major from Keuka Park, wanted to “thank those who fight for our freedom.”
Aubrey Clark, a sophomore occupational science major from Fillmore; Dani Alred, a junior organizational communication major from Horseheads; Emily Grecco, a sophomore psychology major from Waverly; Jakiem Brown, a junior educational studies major from Rochester; Nicole Naidoo, a sophomore accounting major from Durban, South Africa; and Melissa Whipple, a sophomore psychology major from Victor all wanted to sign a card to show their appreciation for the service our military personnel provides.
Those who took part were asked to write a short message and sign their name on a card. In addition to writing messages and signing their names, many members of the campus and local community donated cards, including students at Keuka Lake School and Prattsburgh Central School, residents of Clinton Crest Manor, and participants in College’s Big Brothers Big Sisters program.