Personal growth, not just jobs, are important to college students
Higher education strengthens citizens, families and communities as well as the economy. Economic benefits to both graduates and the community are, of course, one of the most important reasons for public higher education. But two recent studies by UVU Institutional Research & Information show that higher education contributes much to graduates’ personal growth as well.
UVU’s alumni use their skills in many areas of life. Many of them realize the value of their university experiences under the most ordinary of circumstances. “Every day, there’s math skills, ethics, communication skills. I’d say every day I use some of those skills,” according to one graduate. And for others, the circumstances are extraordinary:
“Directly after graduation, I joined the Peace Corps and moved to Morocco, northern Africa,” one UVU alum said. “The knowledge and skills I learned while studying sociology and anthropology at UVU prepared me for encountering foreign cultures.”
The 2010 Graduating Student Survey shows that for every two students who come to UVU primarily to improve their employment circumstances, one comes to improve personally in some way. Personal development was the most commonly stated personal primary goal, with 24 percent of graduates identifying it as their goal in pursuing a UVU degree — the same number that said they came to UVU to gain skills that would lead to a better paying or more satisfying job.
Graduates who pursue personal goals are also more likely to have achieved their goals: 72 percent of those with a personal goal had completely achieved it by graduation. Exactly one student with a personal primary goal reported not achieving that goal.
Whether students arrived with a personal goal or not, they almost always find that their education is useful outside of the workplace. The 2010 Graduated Alumni Survey revealed that 85 percent of alumni have used the skills they developed at UVU to do something beyond work or further education in the year after graduation. One-third pointed to growth in their personal relations or intellectual skills generally, and 14 percent said that education has made them a better person.
Personal growth isn’t just a matter of what individuals do for themselves. Nearly one-fourth of the alumni said that they have used the education to improve their families. For example, in helping children with homework, dealing with family conflicts more effectively or managing the family’s finances. 15 percent have used skills they gained at UVU in community involvement, often by teaching those skills to others.
Ultimately, the two surveys show that higher education is about making students capable of improving quality of life for themselves, their families and their communities. Jobs that contribute to economic growth are a major part of that, but by no means is that all students gain. “I have gained valuable personal growth,” said one graduate. “I have become stronger in character and in my understanding of how to best contribute to the world.”
— Jeffrey Johnson