Congratulations on your upcoming commencement! This is a great occasion for you and for Colorado State University, and we’re enormously proud of our students and all you’ve achieved.
The outlook for the Class of 2015 is encouraging. In recent years, 81 percent of our graduating students secured their first destination plans – either a job or admission to graduate school – within six months of graduation. Our students also left CSU with smaller average debt loads, and 92 percent said they would choose Colorado State again. Most recently, a national study has revealed that CSU graduates by mid-career are earning more than the national average – pointing to the long-term economic value of your degree.
Still, I know these kinds of statistics don’t matter much when you’re trying to find a decent-paying job in your field in a highly competitive market – and student loans are coming due. So let me pile on with some more statistics that might help brighten your perspective: Countless financial analysts continue to demonstrate that a college degree ultimately has a greater payoff than a similar investment in the stock market. The Brookings Institution calculates the return on investment on a student loan at 15 percent annually. College graduates earn on average $1 million more over their working lives than people without a bachelor’s degree.
In other words, the hard work you’ve put in to get to this point is a great investment in yourself and your future. But the most important payoff from that investment is what you actually do with the skills, knowledge and credentials you’ve acquired at Colorado State. Our world needs you – your ideas, your passion and your commitment. We have problems that need fixing. How do we feed a world whose population is expected to grow to 9 billion in the decades ahead? How do we safely and sustainably meet the world’s energy needs? How do we combat the rapid spread of disease in a world that seems to get smaller day by day? How do we help instill hope and a sense of real potential in younger generations that see these challenges coming their way?
As educated women and men, these challenges are now yours. The solutions won’t be easy or obvious – if they were, my own generation would have solved these problems a long time ago. But I have full confidence that those solutions are within your reach.
In that spirit, I want to offer a thought from the man who authorized the creation of Land-Grant Universities like CSU more than 150 years ago, President Abraham Lincoln. (You didn’t think I’d miss a chance to quote Lincoln, did you?) In his now famous annual address to Congress on Dec. 3, 1863, he spoke these words:
“The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and so we must rise with the occasion. As our situation is new, we must think anew and act anew.”
You are leaving CSU to venture off into the new – and that path is yours to clear and build.
The term “commencement” signifies that the end of this phase of your education is not truly an end, but a beginning…a foundation upon which you’ll build a life and career. Your graduation is, indeed, a beginning. Make the most of it, and take on your future with a sense of optimism and the confidence that you’ve made an outstanding investment in your future.
All of us at CSU are proud of you, and we celebrate this achievement with you. Congratulations again to the Class of 2015!
Dr. Tony Frank
This article was produced for the 2015 Graduation Guide.