Notes From Under the Oaks | November 2014

Is college worth the cost?

For a long time the answer to that question seemed to be a resounding yes! Over the past few years the collective national answer has become a somewhat less emphatic yes, or sometimes a mushy maybe.

Of course for me the answer is still a resounding yes, but I’ve watched this conversation unfold with great interest. I recently read a piece trying to answer this question with numbers and charts and plenty of talk about salary expectations. I have to confess, I tuned out pretty quickly into reading the piece.

My time in college and the outcome of it cannot be described with charts and numbers. The value of those four years cannot be measured with a dollar figure.

My diploma, which watches over my work here in Abbott Alumni Center, is but a symbol of my experience and cannot fully encompass the greatness of that experience.

My degree documents the achievement of a bachelor of arts in journalism, but it doesn’t tell the story of how I was transformed by this place.

It can’t tell the story of the great friends I made here or of how they have encouraged and supported me in all the years since.

It can’t tell the story of the week I spent in San Francisco studying hunger and homelessness sophomore year or of how I learned how to host events as member of the Activities & Cultural Events Board.

It doesn’t tell the story of my short-lived KPUR radio show or of my semester working as an attendant in the equally short-lived game room.

It definitely can’t share the story of the incredibly life-changing experience of four months studying abroad in London.

It doesn’t share the wonderful story of having my met my husband through a classmate senior year — or that the classmate is now my sister-in-law.

It doesn’t even tell the full story of all the knowledge I gained in my classes — it can only tell that I took and passed classes.

It does make me eligible for certain jobs and in that sense it might be appropriate to attach a dollar sign to this embossed paper, but how do you attach a value to everything else?

Like all alumni, I put much more than my money into college. I poured my energy and my hopes into college. The yield of all that effort is far greater than my degree; it is a collection of experiences that make me who I am as an adult. I lean on those experiences, and the knowledge they provide, in all parts of my life, not just work.

Yes, yes, yes, college was worth the cost!

As always, I want to hear your story. What makes your degree valuable? Is it the job you secured as a result? Is it the a particular experience or person you treasure? What did you learn in college that can't be reflected on your diploma?

Please, share your story and don’t hesitate to contact me if there is anything I might do to be of assistance.

Best wishes,

Martha Calus-McLain '03 
Director of Alumni Relations

Monday, Nov. 17, 2014