Last week, 171 University of Hawaii Maui College graduates walked across the Maui Arts & Cultural Center's Castle Theater stage to receive their diplomas. The auditorium was filled with excited families and friends. So many people attended that the crowds spilled over into the McCoy Theater. Gov. Neil Abercrombie came from Honolulu to share in the celebration and offer words of advice to the new graduates. It was a happy day.
The diploma awarded to these graduates represents more than just the knowledge and skills students acquire in their majors. It represents long hours of dedication, a willingness to prioritize education with competing demands, and the discipline to keep forging ahead, even when the going gets tough. For all this work, students are justified in asking: Is it worth it?
According to a recent report by The Pew Research Center, it certainly is! A college graduate will earn, on average, $650,000 more over a 40-year work life than will a high school graduate. Those earnings are weighed against the cost of tuition and fees, as well as the salary lost during time in college. But even with those costs included, college graduates will be at least $550,000 ahead, and significantly more if they choose in-state public institutions instead of private schools or out-of-state colleges.
Of course, education is about much more than money. But it doesn't hurt to have strong incentives when tackling the parts of a college education that challenge students, such as math and English.
Many students are surprised to learn when they come to college that they are unprepared for college math. College English courses present similar challenges. Not being ready for these foundational courses can extend students' time to achieve a degree, and that costs both time and money. Many students prefer to satisfy these requirements during summer, before fall classes begin, but summer school courses typically cost more.
This year, for the first time, the university system is offering summer session courses in math and English for $88 per credit. Compared to the regular summer session self-support rate of $248 per credit, this is a tremendous savings. Three-credit courses will cost only $264 each - less than the usual per-credit cost. Summer session will offer an opportunity for students to get a better "return on investment."
There is also good news for students who have "math phobia." Maui College has redesigned its math courses using a new computer-assisted program, called MyMathLab. Since implementing it, passing rates have nearly doubled, and students are completing the math requirements in half the time (a four-course sequence can now be finished in two semesters).
Instead of listening to lectures and then working on homework alone - the traditional method for learning math - students in our program work in a computer math lab with tutors and math faculty available to help. The work is self-paced, and students use video lectures, animations and e-books to learn the material. When they take a quiz, they get the results instantaneously, and they can retake a quiz until they pass or improve their scores.
Of course, the new system doesn't change the need for discipline to succeed. An average student can expect to put in about 45 hours per credit. We will still have plenty of cause to celebrate at the end of the process, but maybe these changes will make it a little easier to get there.
Summer session begins June 6. Registration is open for summer and fall classes.
Please call the Educational Opportunity Center at 984-3286 or visit us online at www.maui.hawaii.edu.
* Clyde Sakamoto is Chancellor of University of Hawaii Maui College. Ka'ana Mana'o, which means "sharing thoughts," is scheduled to appear on the fourth Sunday of each month. It is penned by UH-Maui College staff and is intended to provide the community of Maui County information about opportunities available through the college at its Kahului campus and education centers.