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What’s the Value of Public Higher Education?

In times of uncertainty, it’s helpful to take a step back and reflect upon our core values and mission. Why are we here? What do we do best? What have we accomplished, and what do we hope to achieve in the future?

As leaders of public institutions, we know our universities provide great benefit to society, but communicating that value can be challenging. Misconceptions abound, and it’s become harder to distinguish fact from fiction in an over-saturated media environment. We need to remind the public that our institutions provide great value to students, the economy, our communities, and scientific progress.

That’s the goal of APLU’s #PublicUValues campaign: a one-month social media blitz intended to bring public universities together as one voice and communicate the value of public higher education. Throughout October, universities delivered a coordinated and consistent message, backed by data and success stories from their campuses. Together, they demonstrated that public institutions provide affordable education, contribute positively to society, and conduct cutting edge research that saves lives, grows the economy, and improves our quality of life.

A few highlights from the campaign:

Declining state funding has forced many public institutions to raise tuition – and yet, the cost to students is still far lower than at private universities. If you’re an in-state student at a public four-year institution, you’ll pay just $3,770 on average in tuition and fees per year after scholarships, grants, and tax benefits, compared with $14,220 at a private nonprofit university.

Ohio is a national leader in keeping college affordable! #PublicUValues — Cleveland State (@CLE_State) October 6, 2016
Our commitment to community, diversity & affordable excellence embodies @OSUPrezDrake‘s 2020 vision. #PublicUValues — Ohio State (@OhioState) October 26, 2016

The media has paid a great deal of attention to the student debt crisis in America. However, 79 percent of public university graduates finished their degrees with less than $30,000 in debt and 36 percent graduated with no debt at all.

Did you know? –> In the past four years, @IndianaUniv has helped in-state students reduce their loan volume by 20 percent. #PublicUValues — IUPUI (@IUPUI) October 5, 2016

Approximately 60 percent of all bachelors degrees in the U.S. were awarded by public universities. Having a college degree dramatically improves an individual’s prospects for employment, increases lifetime earnings, and even contributes to longer life expectancy and better health. On average, college graduates earn $32,000 more per year than individuals with just a high school diploma, and will end up with nearly $1 million more in lifetime earnings than high school graduates. These trends are likely to continue: 99 percent of jobs created since the recession went to individuals with at least some postsecondary education.

75% of the 2015 #UCFgrad class have either re-enrolled or found full time jobs. #PublicUValues — UCF (@UCF) October 19, 2016

The benefits to society are just as important as the benefits to students themselves. Bachelor’s degree holders are twice as likely to volunteer, 3.5 times as likely to make charitable contributions, and vote at higher rates (75 percent) compared to their high school-educated peers (52 percent). And because college graduates tend to earn more, they contribute an additional $273,000 in taxes over the course of their lifetimes.

VCU students logged 1.4 million hrs of community service in 14-15. Read more in @VCUCommunity Report #publicuvalues — VCU (@VCU) October 19, 2016

Public universities are drivers of discovery, transforming communities, economies, and whole societies. From agriculture to technology, public universities are creating new knowledge and producing innovations that benefit people around the world. Public institutions, particularly those in urban areas, are working with business and industry partners to develop a workforce that meets community and labor market needs.

Research at #CSUN has led to advancements in satellite technology. #PublicUValues — Cal State Northridge (@csunorthridge) October 28, 2016

How is your institution providing value to students, your community, and society? Continue the conversation on Twitter by using the hashtag #PublicUValues.


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