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How much is a college degree worth? This question is undergoing scrutiny and examination from several quarters, as the prolonged economic downturn has consumers going the extra mile to ensure that we get the most value possible from practically every purchase we make.

The U.S. Bureau of the Census released a report in October that indicated that a university degree carries a considerable amount of economic value. The Census report shows that the average American with a high-school diploma can expect to earn about $936,000 over a lifetime. When the Census Bureau looked at college completion and career earnings, however, the numbers told a different story: Americans who earned bachelor’s degrees could expect to earn at least $1.7 million over a lifetime (teachers and coaches), $2.3 million (communications professionals), and $3 million (technology/computer professionals).

But the story doesn’t end there. The Census Bureau reported that for every additional degree earned—master’s and doctoral degrees—the recipient could expect to add $2 million to $3 million in lifetime earnings, depending on the field of study. These findings are not startling, yet they quantify what we already know, namely that the 21st Century college student must plan to be a lifelong learner and earn additional degrees at some point in his or her life, maybe even changing occupations as many as five-seven times over the course of a career. This stands in stark contrast to my generation, which was told that the pathway to economic security was to earn a bachelor’s degree and maintain employment in the same field for a lifetime.

Data such as these from the Census help mold our thinking at Troy University. We have to prepare our value-conscious students for life after graduation. Our Trojans must leave this special place as educated men and women who are ready to serve society and earn good a good living in the process. I have several pieces of good news in several areas to share with you that indicate we are achieving this goal.

National rankings cite TROY

We have been ranked in the top 30 public universities in the South by U.S. News and World Reports magazine, one of the oldest and most prestigious rankings in U.S. higher education, and several of our programs have been recognized as leading online learning programs. TROY was also included in the magazine’s “Best Regional Universities (South)” list and was among the top 50 universities on the “Best Online Bachelor’s Programs” list.

The American Council of Trustees and Alumni (ACTA) has issued its report card on the state of general studies at American colleges and universities, and we were pleased to receive a grade of “B.” It’s important to point out only 21 universities across the nation and none in the State of Alabama received a grade of “A.” This ranking measures the quality and depth of courses offered to freshman and sophomores, which provide the basics of a quality university education.

Colleges restructure and add new programs

guest-servicesDeans in two of our colleges are implementing major changes. We have established a new School of Science and Technology within our College of Arts and Sciences, and we have established a new School of Hospitality, Sport and Tourism Management within the College of Health and Human Services. These changes will enhance academic quality and better prepare our students for careers in growth fields. For example, by 2022 tourism will account for 328 million jobs, or one of every 10 jobs in the world. And the School of Science and Technology would house our existing degree programs in applied science, chemistry, physics, computer science, biology, environmental science, Geomatics/land surveying and mathematics.

I am also pleased to announce that we are adding several new degree programs to our inventory across all colleges, including undergraduate degrees in economics, Spanish, exercise science, anthropology, dance and hospitality, sport and tourism.

International programs on the move!

Troy University takes pride in its international flavor, which enables our students from all nations to learn and grow through contact with classmates from other nations and cultures. In December, we received word that our Confucius Institute was named a “Confucius Institute of the Year.” When we held the ceremony in 2007 in Beijing establishing the Confucius Institute at Troy University, we proclaimed our goal to become the best Confucius Institute in the world. This award takes us a step closer to that goal, but it also solidifies our standing as Alabama’s International University.

student-musicOur Confucius Institute serves schools, businesses, communities, government, non-profit organizations and the media throughout the region by offering state-wide instruction and lectures on Chinese culture and language, providing Chinese language teacher training, high school student summer camps, consultation for economic development, and promoting outreach programs on Chinese culture and language.

In addition to reporting record numbers of international students enrolling on the Troy Campus for fall term—more than 920 from 66 nations speaking 80 languages—we have also added new destinations for study-abroad programs for our U.S. students. We now can provide opportunities for our students to study in Brazil and Costa Rica, and a special trip to Cuba is in the works for this summer.

License plate sales fund scholarships

One of our major success stories is our development of the Trojan Pride Scholarship Program, which is funded by sales of vehicle license plates. The gift of $50 is tax-deductible, and $48 goes to scholarships. If you buy the tag for your student’s vehicle, we also waive the campus parking fee. If you are an Alabama resident, please join over 7,000 other Trojans who support their University through the car tag program.

Baseball team defeats Auburn, new basketball coach hired

There is plenty of sports news to report this spring, beginning with the quick start of our baseball Trojans. We have already earned two victories over Southern Mississippi, then ranked number 23 in the nation, and we have also recorded big wins over in-state rivals Auburn and South Alabama.

Our softball team has defeated perennial powerhouse Florida State University and Southern Mississippi to further enhance the record of Coach Melanie Davis, who entered the season with 800 career wins.

Phil-CumminghamOur men’s basketball team entered a new era in March with the hiring of Phil Cunningham, a 23-year coaching veteran, after legendary Coach Don Maestri retired after 30 years at TROY and 500 wins. Coach Maestri’s shoes will be difficult to fill, but we believe we have hired a coach that will make us the premier program in the Sun Belt Conference. Coach Cunningham was the top assistant at Mississippi State and in his last 12 seasons his teams have made appearances in 11 post-season tournaments. Our fall football schedule for 2013 is now set, including games against Duke, University of Mississippi and Mississippi State University. Next year also marks the first visit of in-state rival South Alabama to Veterans Memorial Stadium. Future schedules include home games with Duke and a future home-and-home series with Boise State University. In closing, allow me to thank you on behalf of our Board of Trustees, faculty, and staff for the trust you have placed in us to serve your students. Our team is dedicated to putting students first in all we do.

Jack Hawkins, Jr.