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Mark A. Burkholder


Thank you Chancellor George.

Among the greatest pleasures of being Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences is participating in commencement, watching you individually cross the stage, and extending a handshake of congratulations. This is a big day for you and for your families! It is a day of congratulations but more importantly a day of celebration! So my congratulations will be brief. I know you are more interested in crossing the stage and commencing the celebration than in listening to your dean.
Graduation formally marks your successful completion of an academic program, whether at the baccalaureate, masters, or doctoral level. Thus it recognizes learning undertaken within a coherent intellectual structure. One cannot graduate with a random selection of courses taken in random order. Rather one progresses from introductions to disciplines and their subjects to more advanced study that, for a number of you, culminated with a research project that demonstrated your ability to develop a sustained argument, discover new information, and present findings in a coherent and convincing manner.

Graduation also recognizes your success at "multi-tasking." You have completed a rigorous academic program while juggling multiple responsibilities. Many of you have families and are involved in a variety of community, church, and school activities. Whether you are female or male, part-time or full-time, employed or not, single or married, a parent or a grandparent, you have demonstrated that you can succeed. And you have demonstrated that living as an engaged participant off campus is a high priority; your education will enhance your ability to contribute to a host of civic activities.

Persistence is another quality that graduation documents. Many of you receiving baccalaureates today share characteristics with the new majority of college students. Approximately half of you have attended as part-time students and your average age is about 31. Well over half of you have received financial assistance to attend the university. But all of you have persisted and succeeded. President Calvin Coolidge emphasized the significance of persistence in a well-known quotation that is worth repeating.

"Nothing in the world can take the place of Persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent."

Your persistence and hard work have allowed you to overcome the obstacles you faced and brought you to the Touhill Performing Arts Center this afternoon.
Graduation also bears witness to your intellectual growth. Some of you entered UMSL as a freshman or as a new graduate student while others fulfilled all of your degree requirements here or as a transfer student completed only your last semesters here. Your experiences with other students and with faculty, your required reading, research, and writing, and your participation in and out of class have left their marks on you. They have had an influence that you will realize fully only when you apply critical thought and analysis to future opportunities you will face at home, in the workplace, and in the community.
Now you might say that congratulations on success at multi-tasking, persistence, and intellectual growth are fine, but what about more tangible results. I am pleased to confirm your hopes. You have completed an important stepping stone toward a more fulfilling, healthier, and financially rewarding life.

A recent study of the benefits of higher education lists some economic and social benefits that individuals receive from higher education. These include employment, higher salaries and benefits, personal and professional mobility, improved health and life expectancy, improved quality of life for one's children, and more hobbies and leisure activities. Let me provide some impressive evidence for only three of these benefits.

Figures compiled in March 2004 indicate that a U.S. worker aged 25 or older who had a baccalaureate degree earned an average personal income that was almost double (93% higher) that of a worker with only a high school diploma; in rounded dollars, the amounts were $48,400 compared to $25,000. The annual difference, over $23,000, is enough to pay off quickly any student loans while leaving considerable income left over. Over a forty-year career, the total difference is well over $900,000 (in current dollars).

The unemployment rate for workers 25 or older is 3% for workers with a baccalaureate; similarly aged workers with only a high school diploma had a 6% unemployment rate in March 2004. An old saying notes that an economic recession is when your neighbor is out of work; a depression is when you're out of work. Continued employment has obvious advantages.

Improved health is an additional benefit many of you will enjoy. Of persons aged 25 or older, 93% of those with a college degree reported good to excellent health; in comparison, only 82% of those with a high school diploma enjoyed good or better health.

In short, obtaining a college degree improves the probability of getting a job, typically results in much higher paying jobs, and also increases the likelihood of better health. I am delighted that you, the Class of 2005, will reap these benefits.

Please remember, however, that the citizens of the State of Missouri, the federal government, alumni and friends of the university, and UMSL's dedicated faculty, staff, and administrators have helped to make these advantages possible. You, in turn, will have opportunities to help future students to benefit from degrees completed at your premier, public metropolitan university.

Let me close by again congratulating you on your potentially life changing achievement. The faculty, staff, and administration of the College are proud of your accomplishments and delighted you chose UMSL as your alma mater. Let the celebration begin!

The "Factbook" on the website of the campus Office of Institutional Research has the precise figures from which these numbers are drawn.

Institute for Higher Education Policy, "The Investment Payoff: A 50-State Analysis of the Public and Private Benefits of Higher Education," (2005).