A column by Governor Earl Ray Tomblin
(October 20, 2014) – Today marks the start of West Virginia’s fifth annual “College Application and Exploration Week,” a statewide celebration of the higher education opportunities available to our state’s students. This week, nearly 240 schools across the state will host college planning activities that provide guidance on how higher education can help students pursue and achieve their long-term career goals.
Empowering students to enroll in — and complete — education and training beyond high school is the single most promising pathway to secure a bright future for our state’s next generation of leaders. Our state offers a number of training and education opportunities after graduation, so it’s important we continue to stress to our students: it doesn’t matter which path you take, as long as you choose one. For those who choose to attend college after graduation, the benefits of earning a degree can be immeasurable. Studies show, on average, college graduates earn approximately $1 million more over their lifetimes and are more likely to be employed. Perhaps more importantly, those who receive a college education tend to experience greater satisfaction in their jobs, lead healthier lifestyles and serve their communities.
College graduates also have an enormous impact on our state’s economy. According to a recent study conducted by the Bureau of Business and Economic Research at West Virginia University, students who completed college in 2010 will generate more than $6 billion in economic benefits for the Mountain State over the next 20 years. The study also found at least half of these graduates have stayed in West Virginia to take their next steps.
These statistics are extremely encouraging and lay a foundation for our students to build on when considering options for their future. West Virginia needs more of its best and brightest to pursue college and lay down their roots here in the Mountain State.
Last month, we launched the “My State, My Life” campaign, which encourages young people to do just that. I’m committed to ensuring our young people receive a college education that is affordable, which is why I have invested time and effort to continuing the PROMISE scholarship, as well as many need-based and merit-based financial aid programs. In fact, our state consistently ranks among the top ten in the country in regards to the amount of financial aid dollars we provide to each undergraduate student.
Each of us has a role to play to support our students and establish a higher education culture in West Virginia. This week, I encourage current college students and college graduates to get involved by participating in the College Foundation of West Virginia’s (CFWV’s) “Why I Chose” campaign. Using the social media hashtag #WhyIChose, share your stories with others and explain why you chose to further your education, your particular college or your degree pathway.
So far, the response from the “Why I Chose” campaign has truly been inspiring. We’ve heard from students like Michael Barnes, a native of Williamson and a student at Southern West Virginia Community and Technical College, who said, “Going to college allows me to develop my career and myself as an individual.” And from many others like Kayla Bain, a Concord University student from Elizabeth who sees college as a crucial step in her path to making a difference in the world. Kayla told us, “I’m majoring in clinical lab sciences because I want to be part of providing high quality healthcare for families in our state. I want to bring a sense of caring and compassion to my work and to their lives.”
Every day, students—like Michael and Kayla—demonstrate their commitment to their personal goals, their communities and our state, and I encourage all West Virginians to do the same. To see their impact in action and join in the conversation visit the College Foundation of West Virginia on Facebook at www.facebook.com/collegefoundationofwv or on Twitter at www.twitter.com/cfwv.