Considering the state of employment and the economy, you’d get the idea that a college degree doesn’t seem to carry the guarantee that it once did. The notion that a bachelor’s or even a master’s degree ensures post-graduate success seems like a thing of the past. And even if a degree did guarantee a job, the pile of student loan debt under which an appalling number of young people live after finishing school is enough to drive one to drink. Then, there’s that sobering number of struggling college graduates who are living with their parents.
All of this begs the questions: Is college worth it anymore? And, if so, why pick a little university just south of Cleveland called Baldwin Wallace?
We often hear about college education being reduced to an investment, as if it’s a product or a transaction that demands a quantifiable return. It is, to be sure, an investment. But in the case of Baldwin Wallace, the return is an immeasurably invaluable experience.
“For the amount of money that it is, it’s not about the transaction. It’s about the transformation. It’s about what did it do to you as a human being,” says Dan Karp, the assistant vice president of university relations at Baldwin Wallace. As he sees it, a college education is experiential.
Baldwin Wallace is a liberal arts university with a core requirement of liberal arts courses, regardless of a student’s focus of study. “When you attend a liberal arts university like BW, it’s providing a transformational experience across all fields — sciences, English, literature, business, all of it — by laying a foundation for students that will provide career agility, often for jobs that don’t even exist yet,” says Karp.
Aside from the transformational experience of college, there also is the irrefutable evidence presented by the data: You’re better off with a college degree.
That data also suggests evidence that people with college degrees tend to be more active in their communities. All colleges and universities offer opportunities for community outreach, but Baldwin Wallace boasts unique perspectives and programs that encourage students to give back and be of service in myriad ways.
A core principle at the school is something called “meaningful belonging.” The idea is that, on this journey of becoming a more fully realized and more well-rounded person, you have to belong to something.
“Our own promise to our students is to make them more caring and compassionate members of a greater community,” notes Karp. It goes well beyond the four-year “transactional” investment of a college education by focusing on student leadership and becoming a more valuable member of society. That leadership is encouraged across all disciplines, whether it be academics, athletics, government, special interest and so forth.
“The complexion of who BW is evolves with our student body,” Karp says. The school mascot is the Yellow Jacket, and students are encouraged to define and transform what being a Yellow Jacket means through individuality and student leadership. Opportunities for participation and leadership through student-run organizations are a big deal.
For a school with an undergraduate enrollment of just less than 3,400, the sheer amount and variety of student-run organizations and clubs — ranging from the serious and socially conscious to the more social and whimsical — is incredible. There is student government, with executive, legislative and judicial branches; academic organizations and honor societies; service and wellness groups like the Farmer Jackets, who work within and around the school community to promote sustainable options and local food with a community garden; a Greek system with fraternities and sororities; and even a winning intramural dodgeball team. WBWC 88.3FM was the first student-run radio station in the country, broadcasting at 4,000 watts to Cleveland and Lorain County and streaming on the web. Wherever one’s interests lead them, the opportunities for “meaningful belonging” and leadership are tremendous.
Extending beyond the campus, Baldwin Wallace has been keenly focused on programs that give students the chance to flex their leadership muscle for the benefit of the greater community with a big impact on Northeast Ohio. One such program is the Speech Clinic, which is run by BW’s Speech-Language Pathology Department. Students in the speech-language pathology program get to participate in the clinic, which is the only free speech and hearing clinic in the state of Ohio. Students also provide speech therapy in outside community groups, church groups and other facilities in the area.
So...Is college worth it? That would be a resounding, boldface, all-caps YES.
And there was that other question: Why Baldwin Wallace? In its mission statement, the university describes itself as “an academic community committed to the liberal arts and sciences as the foundation for lifelong learning.” The “transformation” that begins at orientation doesn’t end at graduation. It’s an ongoing process of growth that is ignited by the invaluable experiences during those four years. At Baldwin Wallace, the seeds of those experiences are planted in academia, and are given the opportunity to spread roots, grow and flourish in limitless ways.
The average amount of debt for a college student is parallel to the amount of debt of purchasing a new car (in the $24-$28,000 range). “As soon as you drive off the lot with your new car, it depreciates,” Karp says. “When you leave campus with your new degree, it appreciates.”