The most recent rankings and ratings flooding the media lack a way of measuring the value of an education that produces entrepreneurs, innovators, and community service leaders. Instead, they highlight the salaries of an institution’s graduates. In the Forbes “best” list, for example, 32.5 percent of the ranking was determined by post-graduate “success,” defined by the salary of alumni, as well as alumni representation on other lists such as “Thirty under Thirty.” Even the new College Scorecard, produced by the U.S. Department of Education, has a category called “Salary After Attending,” which reflects the median earnings of former students who received federal financial aid, at 10 years after attending the school.
The myopic focus on “return on investment” in graduates’ salaries fails to recognize the quality of the education our graduates receive. Plenty of alumni from New Jersey’s senior public institutions of higher education earn impressive paychecks. But the excellence of our institutions can be seen in how they foster “ecosystems of collaboration and innovation,” a compelling lesson at the Innovation NJ celebration. Developing and nurturing a collaborative and innovative ecosystem for students and faculty is crucial to the success of graduates, the institutions, the state of New Jersey, and society overall.
In our market-driven society, which is so focused on rankings, how do you measure something, which the experts speaking at the Innovation NJ meeting labeled as immeasurably beneficial? The benefits are even greater if you include how well an institution inspires public service.
While we congratulate the institutions with prominent places on the recently released rankings – which include many of our member institutions – we also congratulate all the institutions that succeed year after year in producing alumni who excel in those ranking-elusive qualities of innovation and public service.
NJASCU on its website (njascu.org) is featuring alumni of the state’s senior public higher education institutions who have those hard-to-measure qualities. They are New Jersey residents and renowned contributors to the wellbeing of New Jerseyans. In many cases, these individuals did not earn brag-worthy salaries after graduating, because they were busy creating and innovating in their chosen fields as artists, business and technology entrepreneurs, public servants, military personnel, teachers, and community and political activists. Some of the individuals now are earning substantial salaries, but they did not achieve that fiscal stability until many years after graduation.
Our institutions’ alumni being featured rank very high in the lives of their fellow New Jerseyans who are: living in affordable housing in Atlantic City; seeking leadership and career mentoring in East Orange; surviving the ravages of Superstorm Sandy and other emergency disasters; getting a quality education in the urban public school district of Asbury Park; breathing clean air in New Jersey; and navigating the challenges of business entrepreneurial ventures.
Ultimately, investing in a degree from one of New Jersey’s senior public colleges and universities pays off. At New Jersey’s public four-year institutions, the six-year graduation rate for the Class of 2013 was 67.2 percent, sixth best in the U.S. Reaching their educational goals in a timely way allows our graduates to make contributions to society that are priceless – and often resistant to being ranked.
Director of Communications, New Jersey Association of State Colleges and Universities (NJASCU)
609-731-1685 (personal cell)
609-256-8256 (direct office)
609-989-1100 (general office)