Monday, May 23, 2011

Is It Worth $205,280?

Is college necessary seems to be the question of the moment. What is the lifetime payoff of a college degree? In April the unemployment rate for those with a bachelor’s degree or higher was 4.5%, among high-school graduates, it was 9.7%. I do not argue against a college degree, but question its price is worth what you get. Student debt now is higher than credit card debt in America.

People with more education do have greater job satisfaction and the networking developed through ones college can last a lifetime. We believe the major issue facing higher education is not only the rising costs of attending, but just as important the lowering of standards and academic rigor of attending. Is that B.A., B.S., M.B.A., M.S., PhD, EdD really worth it?

Not only are our college graduates available to shoot a beer, text 100 words in a minute, search for a paper topic on Google – but can they write a professional letter, deliver a speech for ten minutes in front of a group of strangers, research a problem, lead people? These are the issues facing higher education – the jury is still out.

COMMENCEMENT 2011 – TOM BROKAW commencement address Saturday at St. Lawrence University, in Canton, N.Y., "Live Modestly":

“In the past four years you have been witness to and in too many case, felt the pain of, the most devastating economic recession since the Great Depression. Some of you may have parents who lost jobs or homes. While you were here, preparing to take your place in a society that values and rewards higher education, others your age were in uniform and in harms way in the two longest wars in our history, wars that are not yet over and every week bring painful news of loss of life or limbs to too many American families. We owe them more than a yellow ribbon on our cars or trucks, more than a singing of God Bless America.

You are leaving this sanctuary of learning and innocence in a season of uncertainty and anxiety. Daily there are painful reminders that the economic model that has defined your lives was a house of cards. Indeed, it is a shambles that will not be easily repaired, and even then, it will have a far different shape and evoke far different expectations.

We lost our way and allowed greed and excess to become the twin pillars of too much of the financial culture. We became a society utterly absorbed in consumption and dismissive of moderation. A friend, a very successful businessman who nonetheless lives a temperate life, says appropriately we have to replace want with need. It’s not what we want that should rule our lives but what we need. And, it goes without saying, what we can afford.

You’ll not solve global warming by hitting the delete button; you’ll not eliminate reckless avarice by hitting backspace; you’ll not make society more just by cutting and pasting.
And do not surrender the essence of the human experience to 146 characters on a Twitter or a Facebook, however seductive the temptation. You’ll not get a Google alert when you fall in love. You may be guided by the unending effort of poets and artists, biologists and psychiatrists to describe that irreplaceable and still mysterious emotion so essential to the human condition but all the search engines in the universe cannot compete with the first kiss. It will do us little good to wire the world if we short circuit our souls. Remember, too, that somehow before BlackBerries and I-phones, lap tops and video games, great and welcome change was achieved.

You’ve been told recently you’re about to enter the real world. That’s misleading. Your parents and I do not represent the real world. Neither does this institution, for all of its obvious qualities. The real world was junior high. You’ll be astonished by how much of the rest of your life will be consumed by the same petty jealousies you encountered in adolescence, the same irrational juvenile behavior, the cliques, the dumb jokes and hurt feelings.

Most of all, remember – you cannot get through this world alone. You need each other – and we need you to celebrate one another in a common cause of restoring economic justice and true value, advancing racial and religious tolerance, creating a healthier planet.

We do that by listening and reasoning not by shouting and fighting. Beware of ideological tyranny and uncompromising certainty. Do not become hostage to the orthodoxy of others.

This country was built on big, bold ideas that served the common welfare. We’re a democratic republic, not a collection of fiefdoms changing the fundamental rules of governance with every election cycle.

No remarks of mine or parental advice will be adequate substitute for your own determination and commitment to excellence. We’re not your GPS system; at best, as commentators and parents, we’re road signs. You must find your own way and I have little doubt you will.

On these occasions in the past I’ve said, It’s easy to make a buck; it’s tough to make difference. Then a parent suggested a re-wording: It’s tough to make a buck but if you make a lot of bucks, you can make a big difference. So for a time I offered both observations as a final word.

This year and these times required still another revision: It’s a lot tougher to make a make a buck but making a difference has its own rich reward.

Go forth and make a difference. God knows, we need your help.”

A total of 548 degrees will be awarded at St. Lawrence's ceremony. There are 527 candidates for bachelor's degrees and 21 candidates for master's degrees.
* The five most popular majors this year are, in descending order:
- Psychology
- Economics
- English
- Government
- Biology

In 2010, the top five in descending order were psychology, english, economics, history and government.

The total four year cost for the average student to attend St. Lawrence University was $205,820.

BIRTHDAYS THIS WEEK – Birthday wishes and thoughts this week to Greg Ball …famous father of Geoff & Alex, John Fogerty (66), Kirk Gibson (54), Rudy Giuliani (67), Lenny Kravitz (47), Mark Howe (56), Jim Lehrer (77), Hank Williams Jr. (62).

COMMENCEMENT SEASON - RR always enjoys a good graduation speech. Here is Willis Group CEO Joe Plumeri from May 15 at the College of William & Mary discussing his rise from humble beginnings in Trenton, N.J. and career encounters with Sandy Weill in 1968 and Henry Kravis in 2000. Video:

DICK CHENEY's book - "In My Time: A Personal and Political Memoir," by Dick Cheney with Liz Cheney - will be out Aug. 30, the Tuesday before Labor Day, and people who have read it say that it peels back some skin: unquestionably the most unvarnished of the Bush administration memoirs. Cover image, showing a pensive Cheney, hands in pockets, alone in the White House Cross Hall.

LINKEDIN: ARE YOU KIDDING? - The enormous day-one IPO pop for shares in business networking site LinkedIn (which RR still can't really figure out how to use and which Alec Baldwin recently mocked on "30 Rock") had everyone talking about a return to the go-go 1990's when any dot-com could double or more on its first day. LinkedIn closed at $94.25, more than double its offering price of $45 but off the day's high of $122.70. The closing price represents a multiple of nearly 600 times the site's trialing earnings of $15.4 million, a completely insane number. The shares are likely to come back to earth. But the underwriters, including Morgan Stanley, Bank of America Merrill Lynch and JPMorganChase, have some explaining to do after leaving so much money on the table for LinkedIn executives and shareholders who sold into the IPO. One banker at a firm not on the deal told M.M.: "If I were an existing LinkedIn shareholder I would not be very happy right now."

BE WELL - Ron Harris and Nancy Scali, having a tough fight with cancer. We all support you and you are in our prayers.

Next week, our Jack Ass of the month.

Until next Monday, Adios.

Claremont, CA
May 23, 2011

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