BRAD: I wrote an article published in the Wausau Pilot & Review April 9, 2020, that reached out to graduating high school students and their families, encouraging them to think of a Plan B for college this fall if COVID-19 is hindering their plans. To me, that Plan B should include UW-Stevens Point at Wausau, which certainly is a wise choice during these uncertain times. Here’s a bit of what I said:
“When life doesn’t go according to plan, the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point at Wausau can be an exciting part of your new plan.
Listen . . . ‘Life happens.’ Sometimes when you least expect it. Job loss, divorce, pregnancy, stock market crash, or another life challenge. At times like these, you may need to summon your resilience and gracefully shift to your Plan B. The exciting news? Doing so may be of great benefit to you! Learning to be resilient — to foster your ability to adjust to misfortune or change — is a valuable lesson to help you succeed in whatever new path your life may take.”
ANN: Yes, we’re all learning how to be more resilient these days. COVID-19 has imposed hardships on many people. Family members and friends have lost jobs, small businesses have closed, and local governments and non-profits struggle to meet community needs while facing their own financial shortfalls.
It might be hard for some future college students and their families impacted by the pandemic to think about anyone heading off to college this fall, as people are focused right now on meeting their immediate needs, but I’m hopeful they will soon look ahead to the fall and decide to pursue their college plans, and here’s why…
A bachelor’s degree is closely tied to lifetime earnings. Those with a bachelor’s degree (or higher) make, on average, more than $1 million more during their careers than people without those credentials.
Often people think that only older earners make more money, but data from the Pew Research Center shows that the gap is among its widest for younger earners. It pays — literally — to get a 4-year or advanced degree.
And not everyone knows that UW-Stevens Point at Wausau now offers 4-year degrees in Business Administration, Nursing, and Social Work. Investing now to earn one of these degrees will most likely yield big results later, and often not too much later.
Plus, with a bachelor’s degree, students will develop the professional skills that employers are seeking. Critical thinking, problem solving, and working in teams are more important and more needed than ever.
Another reason I tout UW-Stevens Point at Wausau is because students need to think about not being saddled with huge amounts of college debt. There are smart choices they can and should make to limit student debt. UWSP at Wausau’s annual tuition and fees are a very affordable $5,196. You just can’t beat that! It’s why our local campus in Wausau is “the real deal.”
And, June 5-15, 2020, students can apply for free. President Ray Cross explained the UW System’s objective in waiving the application fee:
“We understand this is an extremely difficult time, and prospective students are faced with complicated decisions as they think about attending a UW System university this fall. […] We hope that by offering this free application period to our two-year campuses, those decisions are a little easier.”
ANN: The UW System touts starting at our campus because of that affordability and because of the incredible benefits of attending here. The beauty of starting one’s education at UWSP at Wausau, Brad, is that it gives students not only a seamless transition to our main campus in Stevens Point, but also access to the entire UW System if a student chooses to transfer to pursue a 4-year degree not offered here.
In addition, we have phenomenal instructors who get to know their students and help them to identify and develop their strengths so they can be successful wherever they go in the UW System. Being a part of the UW System is crucial: It is why our courses more often transfer as “named, numbered equivalencies,” meaning as a specific course in the course catalog, which helps students stay on track, progressing toward completing their degree.
Plus, when students complete their Associate degree with us, that degree is a stand-in for their general education requirements, even as they start their major courses. We’re a smart choice, for sure.
BRAD: But this is also a win-win for area businesses, students, and families. Area businesses can keep their student employees (and I hope they will), and those students can keep their local jobs. Students get a high-quality, affordable education, and families can keep their kids close to home at a time when that might feel right.
ANN: I get that last part. At the university, we are preparing for a number of different COVID-19 scenarios, as we all know we will need to be ready for possible future outbreaks. Our plan for the fall, which will be rolled out in about a month, will prioritize keeping students and staff safe while continuing to offer rigorous courses that really count for something. That might be through face-to-face instruction, online instruction, or, most likely, a combination that harnesses the best of both formats. Even before this semester, most of our instructors were experienced in teaching online classes, making for a smooth transition to the all-online environment this past spring. Our commitment to teaching well is our hallmark, regardless of format. It’s who we are.
Brad, if you had to offer a final bit of advice to students and to parents, what would you say?
BRAD: This is your life… Think about what you really want and plan for the life you want to live. But at the same time, be practical; consider things like affordability and marketable skills after graduation. And remember to train for a career, not just a job. A college education can prepare you for a series of jobs, progressive levels of responsibility, and better pay.
And, develop confidence in yourself and be passionate about learning — inside and outside of the classroom.
What would your advice be, Ann?
ANN: My advice is to not stop planning for the future. Don’t put your dreams on hold… Discover your purpose now.
Those of us who lived through the Great Recession a dozen years ago know that hard times can last, sometimes longer than we thought they would. But life will go on. Don’t let it pass you by. There are steps you can take to keep moving your dreams forward…
Our UWSP at Wausau campus is here to help students achieve their dreams. During challenging times and during good times, we’re the smart choice for your educational needs.
BRAD & ANN: Be safe and well, everyone.
Brad Karger is retired and formerly served as Administrator of Marathon County. Email Brad Karger.
Ann Herda-Rapp is the Campus Executive and a professor of Sociology at UW-Stevens Point at Wausau. Email Ann Herda-Rapp.
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