One of the great challenges facing higher education in the United States is pressure from the public and from government regulators around costs and benefits. From one end of the political spectrum we hear arguments about the value of a college degree; from another, arguments about the price and the ability for those without social capital to access education. We have most recently seen versions of this inject themselves in Massachusetts political discussions.
This actually speaks to a failure by colleges and universities to explain to alumni, students, future students, and to especially to families, why higher education is so important to individuals and to society at large. For too long, the value of higher education has been assumed by institutions. But I know that Merrimack’s ability and willingness to have that discussion is one of the reasons we have succeeded in challenging times.
While other colleges chase rankings that are based largely on input measures — SAT scores, class rank, etc. — Merrimack has emphasized the successes we can help students achieve, and the value we add to families’ futures. That is why Money Magazine named us one of the “most transformative” institutions in the country — because we make such a huge difference in our graduates’ lives and careers.
Our investments in strong academics, state-of-the-art facilities, and career-focused services, such as the O’Brien Center for Career Development, career counselors in the schools, Professional Development Days, just to name a few, are a major differentiator for Merrimack. Our ability to explain so clearly why we will help young men and women get a head start — with a strong foundation of academics and values, practical experience with cutting-edge technologies and personally tailored guidance on moving ahead in the world of work — has drawn more and more students to the College, and more and more notice by the public.
If more universities were making the case for the true value of higher education, the public and regulators would see us very differently as a group. Merrimack College is — and should be — very proud of the fact that we stand out for all the right reasons, but we must never let up in our focus. And we must never stop telling our story of Merrimack graduates’ successes.