Common Misconceptions of a College Education

Dr. Lisa Ransdell is an independent educational consultant and college counselor who helps students and their families stay on top of college planning. Lisa’s practice is grounded in 27 years of college teaching and 20 years in higher education administration. She constantly tours, reads, and does professional development in order to give clients the most up-to-date info.

I liked many of the points made in a recent commencement speech at Michigan State University by Roger Ferguson, President and CEO of TIAA-CREF, the retirement-investment firm used by a majority of the nation’s college professors and staff members. Ferguson, who is an attorney and former Federal Reserve Board Chairman, highlighted three common misconceptions of a college education for the benefit of those graduating.

First, he challenged the idea that the main purpose of attending college is to get a job and maximize earnings as much as possible. By way of illustrating what can happen when people and companies place the pursuit of money above all else, Ferguson cited the ongoing financial crisis and the long-term fallout that can occur when greed prevails in human enterprise.

Second, Ferguson took issue with the notion of “climbing a career ladder”, observing that many of those who are most successful in the U.S. at present are willing to operate as if on a career climbing wall, where one must shift horizontally, perhaps briefly descent before ascending once again, and carefully read the terrain and strategize in order to keep moving and progressing.

Finally, Ferguson debunked the idea that graduation marks the end of education. He made a strong case for the importance of lifelong learning, and observed that this learning doesn’t necessarily take place in a classroom environment.

I thought this was a solid graduation speech with some great nuggets for graduates and their families. Not all commencement speeches hit the mark, but this one seemed short (a good thing I think!), and truly sweet. Congratulations high school and college graduates of 2011, including some wonderful past clients.  May the world be your oyster!