May 2018 newsletter
Find out how our graduates benefit financially from earning a bachelor’s degree. Then dive into social media issues with Katherina Pattit, University of St. Thomas associate professor of ethics and business law. And as we look ahead to fall, read advice from students at St. Olaf College, Concordia University, St. Paul and Macalester College; they share tips to help the incoming class thrive in college.
It’s commencement season at private nonprofit colleges across the state; it started in April at Augsburg University and ends in June at Carleton College. As students gather with their families for these ceremonies, they mark the significance of this threshold moment — and leave as graduates.
Altogether more than 9,000 students will earn a bachelor’s degree from Minnesota private colleges this academic year. For the time they’ve put into learning and building their skills, these graduates stand to benefit financially and the state reaps rewards as well. Yes, graduates see numerous benefits, ranging from improved health to increased civic engagement, all with resulting payoffs for the broader community. But the topic of financial returns is an area of frequent focus.
Financial benefits to grads
One indication of the importance that employers place on bachelor’s degree holders is what they earn in terms of a wage premium, explained Robert Hoffman, assistant professor at The College of St. Scholastica, School of Business and Technology. And he sees it growing. Looking at the average earnings of Americans aged 25-34, those with a bachelor’s degree earned 49 percent more than those with just a high school degree in 1995. By the mid-2010s that gap grew to 60 percent or higher.
After past economic downturns, that gap has shrunk, Hoffman noted. But that’s no longer happening after the most recent recession, given that many jobs including in manufacturing have disappeared. “Even as the economy recovers, I don’t expect the high school-only educated workers to see much of a wage increase,” he said.
“The fact that college educated workers are being paid so much more than those with just a high school degree,” he said, “it shows the value employers have for college education.”
Think about that 60 percent wage premium as an annual return after investing the time and money to go to college and earn a bachelor’s degree, Hoffman said. “That’s what college represents,” he said. “You’ll never get that kind of return in any other kind of investment, whether investing in the stock market or buying a home.”
Or consider a recent analysis of who has a “good job,” defined as making at least $35,000 for those under 45 and $45,000 for older workers. Data from the report from the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce showed that in Minnesota, the majority of these so-called good jobs are held by those with a bachelor’s degree or higher.
Another sign of the importance that employers place on bachelor’s degree holders is that they have a lower chance of being out of work. This January, for example, the unemployment rate for those with bachelor’s degrees or higher was 1.5 percent in Minnesota, according to a Minnesota Private College Council analysis of Census CPS data. That compared to an overall Minnesota unemployment figure of 3.8 percent.
“When you think of one of the worst economic downturns since probably the Great Depression, the peak unemployment in the United States for college educated workers in 2010 was 5 percent compared to an overall unemployment rate of 9.6 percent,” Hoffman said. “That shows that the degree puts you in a good situation when the overall economy is not in good shape.”
Looking at what the economy needs
Some policymakers and commentators seem to want to emphasize technical or vocational education. But Hoffman sees that as a mistake. “It’s not like there’s no path otherwise than a four year, but for the overwhelming share of people — when you think about employers wanting to find employees with flexibility, ability to respond to new challenges — a bachelor’s degree is going to be helpful.”
Consider just the increase in automation and how it will effect employment opportunities. “The jobs of the future will be in creative problem solving, synthesizing information and finding meaning in data,” said Peter Frosch, vice president of strategic partnerships at Greater MSP, the regional economic development partnership. “A bachelor’s degree is about learning how to think, not just learning to do something, and that’s critical.”
But this is not an either-or proposition: All post-high school education options contribute to our economic prosperity, Frosch said. “We need to sidestep a false choice over what is most important.” The regional indicators that Greater MSP tracks include the share of the population with an associate’s degree or more education as well as the share with a bachelor’s degree or more education.
Looking ahead a couple years, the broader Twin Cities region is looking at a serious 100,000 employee shortfall between supply and demand, Frosch said. About one third of those jobs are ones that will require a bachelor’s degree.
And right now we’re not doing well enough on “degree density,” one of the things that matters most for our regional prosperity, Frosch said. With 41 percent of the population in the broader Twin Cities holding a bachelor’s degree or higher, we rank sixth out of 12 peer markets. When businesses are deciding where they should locate or grow, the Twin Cities will never win on important factors like the weather or taxes, he said. That means we need to over-perform on educational attainment — and we’re not.
As for the supply of graduates with bachelor’s degrees, private colleges are key. The Greater MSP indicators include the average six-year graduation rate for bachelor’s degrees in the region, which is at 63 percent. But that rate is below the four-year grad rate at our institutions, which ranks first in the state and the Midwest.
By John Manning
With social media companies making the news and more people questioning their interaction with social networks, we talked with Dr. Katherina Pattit, associate professor of ethics and business law at the University of St. Thomas, about the changing landscape of social media and how higher education interacts with social networks.
Q: How should we expect social media companies to use our data?
A: I would like to think that social media companies use our data respectfully and in a way that will do us no harm and protects our privacy rights — ideally companies use our data to provide us with the services we need and to make these services better. They should also use them in ways that we can consent to and understand.
But I am afraid that reality is quite a bit different. For example, we might be asked for consent in a way that falls short of these ideals. Terms of service that users are typically asked to agree with before using the service are dozens of pages long and hard to understand even for legal experts. They often don’t clearly lay out what our data will be used for and even when they do most users might not understand what such use really means for them specifically.
Q: With Facebook’s recent changes, are we moving away from the corporate over use of personal data?
A: I do not think this is likely. Facebook’s business model is heavily reliant on using personal data to place ads for advertising — and it can only make money if the information it can collect and analyze from users lets them know as much as possible about who the users are, what they like, what they do — and then advertise to them in a very targeted way. The more we know about a user, the more money we can make — such is the calculus and the pressure for financial performance makes it difficult to move away from that model. Unless users experience some concrete personal harm from data breaches or over use of personal data, many will not change their use of the service and thus there is no real need or pressure to limit data use.
Q: How do social media companies support free speech and should there be limits?
A: It is useful to point out in this context that the right to free speech relates to freedom from restrictions in speech by government, not private actors or businesses (there are exceptions if these actors act on behalf of the government). Therefore, a private company can legitimately place restrictions on speech that happens on its platform or service — and they do. Facebook and Twitter have rules about what kind of speech they will not allow; however, enforcement of these rules is not always uniform, and exceptions get applied in various circumstances if there is a public interest in speech that might even run afoul of the platform’s rules.
In general, social media companies strive to make their platforms welcoming to as many users as possible and therefore it is in their interest to make sure that rules are neither too strict nor too lax so that users are neither feeling censored nor feel alienated or threatened by other users. It is a fine balance that social media companies do not always get right.
Q: Do you think social media fosters corrosive dialogue? And if so, do you think that has moved into real world conversations?
A: There are several features of interactions on social media that foster corrosive dialogue. These conditions lead to a cognitive mechanism called moral disengagement, which allows people to do things that they normally would consider objectionable. One usually does not see the person that might be harmed by some post or action. Furthermore, we cannot see what extent the harm takes. Just think what many horrible things people say about other drivers that might irritate them when they are in the privacy of their own cars. Most people would never say these things if the other drivers could hear them. In the context of social media there is a similar psychological distance because we cannot see the recipient of our message; we do not experience the anguish or distress they might feel when they get insulted for example.
Unfortunately, when people get in the habit of doing something in one sphere of life they also then tend to act like that in others. For example, increasingly some students use text “speak” in email communications with professors, even though it’s not appropriate. It is also hard to recognize gradual changes in our own and other’s behavior and so corrosive dialogue might creep into the real world without us noticing along the way.
Q: What are ethical obligations of higher education institutions on social media?
A: One of the core professional obligations of educators (and by extension the organization that supports them) is the formation of students. We might usually first think of imparting knowledge as the only responsibility, but formation goes beyond that. It includes modeling desirable behavior and helping students clarify and develop their values and hone their judgment. Students entrust themselves into the professional “care” of the educational institutions and in that moment the institution has significant responsibility. Social media can play an important role in fulfilling that responsibility. For example, it can facilitate reaching students where they are so formation can take place, institutions using it can model good judgment, students can get exposed to diverse values and compare and contrast their own values to those they see. But because institutions cannot control all aspects of social media use or exposure, there is also significant risk due to some of the conditions of moral disengagement that can occur that I mentioned earlier.
Q: What expectation should we have for students on social media?
A: Expectations are extension of modeling desirable behavior. When I say to my children “I expect you to clean up after yourself” I am indicating that neatness is desirable. Of course I then need to follow that up with my own consistent behavior and I need to enforce these expectations. Therefore, expectations for students on social media should match up with that we consider to be appropriate behavior, they need to be consistent with our own actions and they need to be enforced.
Research we’ve done shows that young people are experimenting with identities while they’re online. They’re exploring who they are and how they fit into the world. These spaces serve a really important function. Previously this was done in spaces other than online. People are very purposely creating certain personas and the challenge becomes how to put online personalities into context of the real world.
Some fundamental moral values any community needs to function well are the respect for others and the recognition of the dignity of every human being, including oneself! What these values might look like more specifically in social media could vary, but for starters we probably would agree that degrading others (and ourselves) with words or pictures is not appropriate, nor is it ok to disrespect someone’s wishes for privacy or to expose them to potential harm.
Q: How should institutions interact with students on social media?
A: The interaction on social media — as in any other social context — should align with the professional role and responsibilities the institution has. As a whole, an institution probably does not have interactions that go beyond presenting a page with information and student being able to follow the institution’s updates. It becomes much more complicated, however, when individual faculty interact or students interact with each other. It is useful to remember that Facebook has its origins as a way for students at Harvard to more easily connect with each other. But what should those more direct and personal interactions look like? Again, it goes back to the roles and responsibilities of the institution and its members. First, faculty: in their role as educators, faculty need to maintain their professional role and be cognizant of the power imbalance between themselves and the students. Relationships between faculty and students rarely are untouched by that power imbalance. Second, student to student: the institutions needs to support an environment that is conducive to fulfilling its role. Situations where some students feel unsafe or disrespected are not conducive to learning. Therefore, institutions need to think hard about the rules of the road that should govern the interactions that student have when they are in the institution’s care.
By Tom Lancaster
There are a lot of unanswered questions for high school seniors making the transition to college life. We asked a few current student to give some advice for incoming first-year students. (Do you know someone with a student heading off to college? Consider passing this on.)
Abigale Haug ’19
St. Olaf College
Extracurriculars: Intern at The Aspen Institute, member of Minnesota Association of Private College Students, former undergraduate law clerk at the U.S. Department of Justice and St. Olaf student government.
“Colleges often resemble a ‘bubble.’ By this I mean that you see the same people who worry about the same things and deal with the same issues. While it is fun to be so caught up in the college experience it is easy to forget that the rest of the world is out there. Instead treat college as a time to try new things! Making mistakes sometimes feels like the end of the world but it really never is.”
“Everything you are experiencing during the first few months is new and because of that it can be stressful and feel like you haven’t found a routine. Being able to monitor my schedule and have good time management was something that took time to get used to.”
“Live in the moment. I spent (and still spend) so much time worrying about exams coming up, classes for next semester, how my internship will affect my job after graduation, etc. I wish instead I would have put more effort into staying fully engaged in every classroom discussion, organization meeting and meal with a friend. I’m realizing now that college has flown by!”
“My biggest piece of advice is to be excited for college but also to keep things in perspective — don’t beat yourself up if your experience doesn’t immediately look like the movies. It is okay to have bad days or even bad seasons! That does not take away from the fact that college can still be an amazing experience.”
Tyler Dunn ’19
Concordia University, St. Paul
Extracurriculars: Golf team, member of Minnesota Association of Private College Students, Concordia student government and congressional intern.
“Talk to everyone and look to the upperclassmen for advice. I personally had two teammates who helped me a lot through freshmen year.”
“Don’t go home on the weekends! If you can, don’t go home more than twice in the first semester. You’ll miss out on meeting friends and important experiences.”
“It is essential to know that a bad test score in a 100 level class does not define your college experience. I’m a huge Vikings fan so it hurts to quote Aaron Rodgers but sometimes you just need to R-E-L-A-X.”
“It’s important to know that everyone has struggles their freshmen year. One thing I would have done differently is be more open to new Ideas.”
Kevin Xiong ’18
Extracurriculars: Phillips Scholar, college-access issue area coordinator at Macalester, former teaching fellow at Breakthrough Twin Cities and Macalester’s Summer Live It Fund recipient.
“My advice would be to join organizations. Do something that you are passionate about or something that is important to you.”
“I wish I would have known about networking with campus faculty, staff and administration. I think that college is about who you know and how they can support and further your experience.”
“I learned that it is important to share your experiences and struggles with people. First, this is a way to process your experience: How are you feeling? Do you enjoy your time? Are you struggling? You may find that there are people who share the same struggles as you.”
“What surprised me the most about college was the amount of resources available to try new things. There are funds to create your own projects, to conduct your own research and to attend conferences. Before college I thought that it was a simple track. However, there are so many opportunities for engaged, experiential learning.”
By Tom Lancaster
Each year the Council surveys our member institutions about the post-graduation outcomes of recent graduates. Looking at the most recent data for the class of 2016, 95 percent were employed, pursuing additional education, or doing volunteer service (e.g., Peace Corps or mission work) within a year of earning their bachelor’s degree:
- 75% of graduates listed employment as their primary activity.
- 16% listed continuing education as their primary activity.
- 4% listed volunteer service as their primary activity.
MCAD student receives prestigious Wingate Fellowship
Kiley Friese, a Minneapolis College of Art and Design senior, received a 2018 Craft Windgate Fellowship, a prestigious award worth $15,000 and one of the largest offered nationally to art students.
St. Thomas offers greater access to MBA
The University of St. Thomas online MBA is designed to meet the needs of working professionals and allows students to tailor the MBA to their career path.
St. Scholastica hosts UWS evacuees after refinery fire
The College of St. Scholastica hosted about 100 students evacuated from the University of Wisconsin-Superior after a fire at the Husky Energy Refinery near the UWS campus.
Six CSB and SJU students receive Fulbright awards to teach English in schools overseas
Since 2013, 29 students or graduates from the College of Saint Benedict and Saint John’s University have earned Fulbright ETA awards.
Fulbright selects Concordia senior for Colombia
Concordia College (Moorhead) senior Rachel Schaefer, a Spanish and education double major, received a Fulbright Teaching Award to Colombia.
From ‘Countdown’ to commencement
The first Countdown to College students graduated Saturday from Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota. The First Generation Initiative serves economically challenged students while addressing the academic achievement gap.
Dancers get full Northfield Experience in Carleton-St. Olaf collaboration
What is the Northfield Experience? Ask Carleton College's dance community and they'll be happy to show you in a window at the public library.
Macalester alumnus Kofi Annan urges students to become leaders
The Star Tribune covered the former U.N. Secretary-General's visit to Macalester College for the dedication of the Kofi Annan Institute for Global Citizenship.
Augsburg adopts test-optional admissions policy
Submission of ACT or SAT test scores for admission at Augsburg University is optional for fall 2019 incoming undergraduate student applicants, except in specific circumstances.
Hamline student awarded Truman Scholarship
Hamline University’s Conner Suddick, a legal studies and social justice double-major, was one of 59 students nationally in 2018 to be named as a Truman Scholar, which awards those pursuing a career in public service.
Still time to register for late-June college visits
High school students and their parents are welcome to register for college visits during Minnesota Private College Week, which runs June 25-29. Two sessions are held twice daily at all our member institutions.
New issue of parent newsletter available
The summer issue of The Bridge: Parent News is now available online. Please share this useful resource with parents of college-bound students.
The 2018 undergraduate commencements are wrapping up in June; you can still find a list of commencement speakers on our website.
New cohort of Phillips Scholars selected
Five Minnesota private college students have been selected to develop and conduct community service projects that address the achievement gap in Minnesota. The scholars will complete their projects in summer 2019.
Why science is essential for liberal-arts education (and vice versa)
Forbes, Apr. 18, 2018
Forget coding. It’s the soft skills, stupid. And that’s what schools should be teaching.
Washington Post, Apr. 20, 2018
Treat a college visit like you’re vacationing, not like you’re cramming for finals
Washington Post, Apr. 22, 2018
Saint Mary's names new president: The Rev. James P. Burns is a dean at Boston College
Winona Daily News, May 2, 2018
Want to skip the ACT or SAT? Two more Minnesota universities to offer 'test-optional' admissions
Star Tribune, May 9, 2018
The evolution of the student body continues
Inside Higher Ed, May 14, 2018