Not one of the guys who use to have tigers in Las Vegas (Siegfried and Roy)
Not Johnny’s partner on Emergency (way back in the 70s–but that was Roy as well)
Return on Investment.
To many of us in higher education, this is a very prevalent and difficult phrase. What do we mean by return on investment? This week, the US Government released the new College Scorecard. This reporting tool has some very specific examples of what ROI can mean. There are other tools out there, such as PayScale, which also have a definite (and limited) presentation of ROI.
So why is ROI such a troublesome phrase in higher education? Well, as we can see in the examples above, ROI lends itself to some easy reductionist thinking–ROI is simply about money. Income after graduation less tuition and fees=ROI.
Now–nothing necessarily wrong with our students making a living when they graduate–and nothing really wrong with them making a decent living–you need at least a decent living to get by out here. This is important information to students (especially the cost part, at least so says a small group of potential college students featured in a CHE article (behind a paywall possibly).
But ROI should be more. We just celebrated Convocation this week, and at Convocation we heard from two speakers–our current SGA President Esaul Helena, and 2011 alum Raissa Lynn Sanchez. Raissa has a job–a very good one that pays well. Esaul interned for JP Morgan Chase this summer (and will return next summer)–he has good earning potential lined up.
Money was not what they talked about, though, What they talked about was making a difference, making connections, creating change. They talked about how their education has given them the skills and confidence to (yes, make money) be a part of their communities. Esaul is here on campus to serve the entire WPU student body. Raissa is a youth representative for healthcare to the United Nations.
They can both make a living and make a difference.
So if we must live with ROI (and we must–universities cost a lot of money), let’s work to make sure that ROI really talks about returns and investments. When a student invests in an education at William Paterson, our graduates return to their communities as more than just employees. They return as citizens, as family members, and as leaders.
That’s a good return on investment any day.