Pa. col­leges and uni­ver­si­ties have a lot to of­fer

The Community Connection - - OPINION - By Thomas J. Botz­man

Stu­dents and fam­i­lies have much to con­sider when choos­ing an aca­demic ma­jor and then se­lect­ing an in­sti­tu­tion of higher ed­u­ca­tion to achieve their pro­fes­sional dreams. Ad­mit­tedly, it is not an easy de­ci­sion as value and pro­fes­sional prepa­ra­tion in ca­reer-di­rected fields of study are im­por­tant el­e­ments un­der care­ful de­lib­er­a­tion.

As pres­i­dent of a uni­ver­sity that bases its teach­ing and learn­ing on a lib­eral arts model, I wit­ness the trans­for­ma­tion as stu­dents learn and prac­tice what it takes to be­come suc­cess­ful in life and in their fu­ture ca­reers. I field ques­tions reg­u­larly from prospec­tive stu­dents and par­ents who are con­cerned about how in­sti­tu­tions pre­pare stu­dents for re­ward­ing ca­reers. Do the facts sup­port our state­ments that a lib­er­alarts base, cou­pled with ca­reer-di­rected ma­jors, lead to promis­ing fu­tures?

Let us take a closer look at the bach­e­lor de­grees awarded in Penn­syl­va­nia dur­ing the 2016-17 aca­demic year. There are three broad cat­e­gories of col­leges and uni­ver­si­ties that is­sue a sig­nif­i­cant num­ber of bach­e­lor de­grees: 14 state sys­tem uni­ver­si­ties (such as Clar­ion, West Ch­ester, and Ship­pens­burg), four state-re­lated uni­ver­si­ties (Penn State, Tem­ple, Lin­coln, and Pitt), and more than 90 in­de­pen­dent col­leges and uni­ver­si­ties. Many of the in­de­pen­dents are smaller and lo­cated in less-pop­u­lated ar­eas, serv­ing a re­gional stu­dent body. Oth­ers, such as Penn and Drexel, are larger in scale and aca­demic of­fer­ings.

In­de­pen­dent uni­ver­si­ties award nearly half of all bach­e­lor de­grees in the Key­stone state, with 43,450 grad­u­ates in 2016-17. State-re­lated uni­ver­si­ties is­sued 28,963 de­grees and the state sys­tem con­ferred 19,608, ac­cord­ing to the As­so­ci­a­tion of In­de­pen­dent Col­leges and Uni­ver­si­ties.

Are th­ese grad­u­ates ready for suc­cess­ful ca­reers? In my view, the clear an­swer is “yes,” re­gard­less of how you de­fine ca­reer­ready de­grees. About two-thirds of bach­e­lor de­grees are granted in fields that lead to a re­ward­ing ca­reer.

In the gen­eral health pro­fes­sions, more than 10,000 de­grees were awarded dur­ing the 2016-17 aca­demic year — more than twothirds of them from in­de­pen­dent in­sti­tu­tions. A sim­i­lar sce­nario plays out in nurs­ing, where in­de­pen­dent in­sti­tu­tions awarded more than 4,000 Bach­e­lor of Science de­grees in nurs­ing. Mis­eri­cor­dia Uni­ver­sity, where I serve as pres­i­dent, en­rolls more than 40 per­cent of its in­com­ing class an­nu­ally into one of six health pro­fes­sions.

Ed­u­ca­tion presents a sim­i­lar view, with about 4,000 new bach­e­lor de­grees awarded to our fu­ture teach­ers each year. Busi­ness and re­lated ar­eas, such as mar­ket­ing and man­age­ment, add an­other 18,000 de­grees, and in­de­pen­dent in­sti­tu­tions award nearly one-half of those de­grees.

What about STEM de­grees? More than 5,000 bi­ol­ogy and bi­o­log­i­cal science grad­u­ates re­ceived their de­grees in the state — and in­de­pen­dent in­sti­tu­tions ac­counted for more than half of them. The in­de­pen­dents and state-re­lated uni­ver­si­ties al­most split the more than 6,000 grad­u­ates in en­gi­neer­ing evenly. In to­tal, AICUP re­ports that about 70 per­cent of de­grees in each of the three col­lege cat­e­gories are clearly ori­ented to­ward a ca­reer — that is more than 60,000 ca­reer ready grad­u­ates an­nu­ally. The re­main­ing 30 per­cent are typ­i­cally in the so­cial science and hu­man­i­ties, ar­eas that are the source of our fu­ture le­gal, busi­ness, and so­cial work col­leagues.

Penn­syl­va­nia has a dis­tinct ad­van­tage over many other states thanks to hav­ing three dis­tinct paths for stu­dents in pur­suit of a suc­cess­ful ca­reer and life.

In­de­pen­dent col­leges are proud to pro­vide an ex­cel­lent ed­u­ca­tion to so many of our am­bi­tious and as­pi­ra­tional stu­dents. Let us con­tinue to sup­port stu­dents and fam­i­lies as they choose a path to­ward a brighter fu­ture.

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