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Guest column: Rockford College continues to be a value for all segments of society

Saturday, November 27, 2010  
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By Robert Head
SPECIAL TO RRSTAR.COM
Posted Nov 27, 2010 @ 11:25 PM
Last update Nov 27, 2010 @ 11:29 PM

It seems each month brings a new ranking of colleges and universities in the popular press. Most attempt to evaluate an institution from an academic quality perspective, while a few focus on student perceptions of campus life and their overall experience. In recent years, U.S. News & World Report has ranked colleges and universities based on their economic diversity. The most recent report was issued this fall.

The magazine determines and ranks economic diversity by identifying the percentage of undergraduate students at each institution receiving Pell grants, which are need-based awards through a federal program designed to assist families with lower incomes.

U.S. News notes "many of the top-ranked schools within our ‘Best Colleges’ rankings historically haven’t enrolled large numbers of students from low-income families. It’s been argued by many that the highest-rated colleges and universities should make a much better effort to enroll and then educate these students, given education’s role in being a catalyst for upward social mobility.”

This past summer, U.S. News ranked Rockford College in the top tier of Midwest institutions in its "Best Colleges” survey. More recently, the college was ranked in the upper tier of Midwest schools in economic diversity. The report suggests that schools where 40 percent or more of students receive Pell grants have a "mission to serve students or geographic areas with families of lower incomes.” Rockford College is listed at 41 percent based on fall 2008 enrollment.

What might be a surprise to some is that the vast majority of Midwest institutions with larger percentages are private colleges and universities. Contrary to popular perception, private colleges enroll a greater proportion of low-income students and a smaller proportion of high-income students than public universities. This is not only true in Illinois, but nationally as well.

That higher education is a great value for all students is undeniable. According to a recent report from the College Board, comparing the median cumulative earnings of high school graduates with those of college graduates, it was found that by about age 33 — after 11 years of work — higher earnings compensated not only for four years out of the labor force, but also for average tuition and fee payments at a four-year college funded fully by student loans.

The payoff for higher education is not merely financial. In fact, increased earning power may be one of the lesser benefits. A college education improves our lives, attitudes and behavior in society. It will benefit our children and the community in which we live, helping us become both better parents and citizens. According to the study, higher education even has positive health implications.

Clearly, higher education remains an exceptional value. One of the greatest tests of value is the test of time, and a college degree continues to stand strong. It enriches our lives and communities in many profound ways. Higher education and the opportunity to pursue a college degree should be available to all, no matter their financial means.

Robert L. Head, Ph.D., is the president of Rockford College.

This story appeared at http://www.rrstar.com/gnt/whatyouresaying/x1316687528/Guest-column-Rockford-College-continues-to-be-a-value-for-all-segments-of-society on November 27, 2010.

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