As a father of two college students enrolled in a private, liberal arts college, I fully expect both of our children to graduate from college in four years or less. They know that any years beyond that must be self-funded. Thus, a recent Marietta Daily Journal guest editorial caught my attention. The article highlighted a new funding philosophy for higher education in Georgia. The policy, approved by a commission appointed by Governor Nathan Deal, will tie state money not only to the number of students enrolled, but to how many students actually graduate from each University System of Georgia school. Currently, only 24% of entering freshman at Georgia’s public colleges and universities graduate in four years, and just 52% graduate in six years.
Most readers are, like my wife and I, investing significantly in our children’s future with tuition dollars. These graduation statistics highlight a secondary system that, all too often, sends high school graduates to college who must first take remedial courses before enrolling in college-level classes. While the colleges benefit financially from students remaining on campus five, six, or seven years, either parents must foot the bill or students must take on loans. This dynamic impacts secondary school decisions as well. Parents considering independent school options like Walker often ask themselves if they can afford private, secondary school tuition in the face of rising college costs and extremely low college graduation rates.
The answer to the tuition question is counter-intuitive. It turns out that an investment in a Walker education will most likely reduce the costs of an undergraduate education. Having surveyed Walker alumni in the classes of 2004, 2005, 2006, & 2007, it is clear that Walker graduates represent the top decile of college graduates. Consider that Walker graduates from the classes of 2004 through 2007:
- have a cumulative 3.5 GPA in college (our graduates retain the Hope Scholarship)
- graduate with Honors at a rate of 47%
- graduate in four years or less 81% of the time (more than three times the state average)
- rate the degree to which Walker prepared them well for college at 3.6 on a scale of 4.0
The investment is more than worth it because Walker graduates head to college with self-confidence knowing they are well-prepared to handle the challenges of college and beyond.
One Walker alumnus responding to the survey put it this way, “Walker’s strength is that it challenges you extensively, so that college courses are not a giant leap in difficulty from the Walker experience. Walker does an exceptional job of fostering classroom discussion, debate, and presentations, which are a huge component of high-level college courses. These experiences teach verbal and written communication skills, and they prepare students well to meet the demands of college and the workplace. The relationships and interaction with teachers prepare students for working collaboratively with adults in their careers. I have spoken to multiple Walker alumni who had similar experiences.”