By DAVID A. WILSON
"There is no greater investment in the future than a college education," University of Missouri System President Tim Wolfe said to California R-I middle school students.
During the visit on the morning of Wednesday, Dec. 4, Wolfe talked about the major benefits of going to college to the students assembled in the school gym.
A part of his "Show Me Value Tour," the visit to California was one of many he has made since March to schools as far flung as St. Joseph, Moberly, Joplin, Jackson and Cape Girardeau.
A graduate of University of Missouri-Columbia, Wolfe said that soon after he became university president a year and a half ago, he became alarmed that the message of the actual benefits of higher education "was getting lost." He spoke of the growing body of literature that emphasizes increases in student debt and lowered job placement rates to question the actual value of college.
Wolfe fears these questions could cause some students to reconsider a college education. The top three reasons for going to college, according to Wolfe, are that it makes the person more employable, gives them more choices and actually generally gives them a longer life.
Although the last reason seems odd at first, studies by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicate that, on average, those with a college degree live nine years longer than those who did not graduate from high school.
Wolfe talked to the young people about the need for them to make plans and figure out what direction they will take after high school.
"Choice, not chance, determines your destiny," he said.
Higher education helps provide the possibility of more and better choices. Waiting until the junior or senior year of high school is really too late, Wolfe said.
"Now is the time to take charge of your future," he said to the seventh and eighth graders in his audience.
Even though there may be more and more people who can't afford college, he advises them to not lose hope. There are more and more scholarships available as well as student loans. Wolfe pointed out that, statistically, not going to college has more dire consequences than having to pay off student debt. A person with a college degree will make almost twice as much over a lifetime as someone with a high school diploma.
With more than 200 public, private and proprietary colleges and universities, Missouri's strong and diversified system of higher education serves students with widely-varied academic interests.
"As a son of two college professors, a college graduate myself, university president and - most importantly, the father of two college freshmen - 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 better off for it."