Don’t underestimate the value of independent schools, said Linfield President Thomas Hellie in a Salem Statesman Journal opinion column.
Dr. Hellie, who provides leadership on the executive committee for both the Oregon Independent College Foundation and the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities, responded to a recent national report that said most Oregon college students will never graduate.
“They’ll join young people all across America who are slated to become the first generation with less education than their parents,” he says.
“Oregon’s independent colleges graduate a much higher percentage of their students, in less time, at a fraction of the cost to the taxpayers,” says Hellie, pointing to the fact that private college students are more than twice as likely to graduate in four years as students at public universities.
“Students thrive in small classrooms,” he says. “They do better academically when professors know them by their first name. Many small liberal arts colleges in Oregon are ranked among the nation’s best, but while most of these institutions value research and publications, students are our first priority.”
Oregon independent schools offer scholarships and financial aid to 90 percent of their students, making it less expensive for many students to attend independent schools than public universities.
College degrees are important, Hellie says. “The unemployment rate is less than five percent for college graduates, and national surveys reveal that many employers still want to hire 22-year-olds who can write coherently, think creatively and analyze quantitative data. They’re perfectly happy to hire English or biology majors.”
Dr. Hellie served as vice-president for the Associated Colleges of the Midwest from 1989 to 1999. He was previously president and executive director of the James S. Kemper Foundation in Chicago, Ill.