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Harvard University President Drew Faust makes ‘Case for College' in Dallas speech

Faust spoke to students and educators about the enduring impact of a college education at the Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts in Dallas, Texas


Dallas, TX - Drew Faust, President of Harvard University made the 'case for college' at Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts in Dallas, Texas this morning, in a speech to students and educators about the enduring impact of a college education.

Calling college 'more important this ever,' President Faust set the speech in the context of an ongoing national discussion about the cost of higher education, student loan debt and the value of a college degree.

"From the earliest days of our country, we have seen education as the foundation for democracy and citizenship, for social mobility and national prosperity.  Higher education opens minds and it opens doors," said Faust.

"To ask 'Is college worth it?' is a fair question, and a lot of people around the country are asking it," she added. "To me, the answer is easy: yes. Going to college is one of the best decisions you will ever make."

Many of the benefits of higher education can be clearly measured. A wide range of statistics show the economic advantage of a four-year college education.  Over a lifetime, students who graduate from college can expect to make about 60% more than those who do not, well over a million dollars more than they would otherwise.  A 25-34 year-old female with a bachelor’s degree can expect to make 70% more than if she only completed her high school diploma.

College graduates also tend to lead more active lives.  They vote more often, volunteer more often (42% to 17%) and are more likely to own a home.  They are healthier and less likely to smoke by a margin of 17 percentage points.  They and their children are less likely to be obese, and their children are more likely to go to college.

The Harvard president also highlighted ‘harder to measure’ benefits.

“I have called this speech “the case for college” because I believe that college changes lives,” said Faust.

“I often ask students as they are approaching graduation how they are different from when they arrived at college. They say they know more. They frequently say they found a passion they had never imagined — a field, a profession to which they intend to devote their lives. But what is most important, they often tell me, is that they have a new way of approaching the world, through the power of learning, analyzing, changing to adapt to what they’ve come to understand.”

Faust also spoke of how college prepares people for the workplace.

“The world of work is changing, and employers increasingly recognize the importance of collaboration and creativity,” said Faust.  “More and more, organizations are looking for talented young people who not only know how to work hard, communicate well, and manage information skeptically, but do so with an open mind. To cultivate your power to think is one of the best things you can ask of yourself at a college or university.”

"To be adaptive, as college teaches us, is to be armed for challenges we cannot yet fully identify," said she added.  "At its best, college does more than prepare you for your first job; it helps you anticipate, and perhaps even create, your fourth or fifth job, a job that may not even exist yet."

Harvard has also launched a campaign to amplify the messages in President Faust's remarks, using the unifying hashtag #CaseForCollege on official Harvard social media accounts to post speech details and content that illustrates the value of higher education. Fellow public and private higher education institutions, national membership organizations for school principals and guidance counselors, elected officials, college readiness advocates, and many others have also been encouraged to engage in making the case for college by posting their own messages about the measurable and immeasurable impacts of higher education on students and families across the country.

A transcript of Faust’s remarks is available here. Journalists are also encouraged to follow, and engage in, the conversation on social media using the hashtag #CaseForCollege

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About President Faust:
Drew Gilpin Faust is the 28th president of Harvard University and the Lincoln Professor of History in Harvard's Faculty of Arts and Sciences. As president of Harvard, Faust has expanded financial aid to improve access to Harvard College for students of all economic backgrounds and advocated for increased federal funding for scientific research. She has broadened the University's international reach, raised the profile of the arts on campus, embraced sustainability, launched edX, the online learning partnership with MIT, and promoted collaboration across academic disciplines and administrative units as she guided the University through a period of significant financial challenges. A historian of the Civil War and the American South, she is the author of six books.

Accessibility and Affordability:
Harvard has been a leader accessibility and affordability, offering a need-blind admissions process and a generous financial aid program that does not require students to take out loans to finance their education. Nearly 60 percent of undergraduates receive grant aid from Harvard, and approximately 20 percent of families pay nothing towards the cost of tuition, room, and board.