Dordt College News

From the president

May 10, 2009

Dr. Carl E. Zylstra

But is it worth the cost?

Perhaps it’s the economic stress of the moment that gives added urgency, but more and more people seem to be asking about their prospective college experience, “How do I know whether I’m getting my money’s worth?” I gave one answer to that question in last winter’s edition of The Voice, but I think this issue’s articles on students’ educational experiences illustrate my point even more concretely.

The “am I getting my money’s worth” question takes several forms. Some ask, “Can I get a good job once I graduate from the college?” To that question Dordt College can respond, “Everyone’s experience varies, but we know that on average more than ninety-five percent of our graduates are employed or in graduate school within six months following graduation.” And when you recognize that even in our present economic crisis the national unemployment rate among college graduates is only half that of the population as a whole, that seems to be a pretty good reason, in itself, to believe that Dordt College may be a place where you’ll get your money’s worth.

Another way of asking the question is, “If I enroll at Dordt College, how sure can I be that I will graduate from college and that it won’t take me forever to get through?” A national statistical survey showed that Dordt’s graduation rate is about fifty percent better than that at other comparable colleges. More to the point, ninety-four percent of our graduates complete their course of study in four years or less, saving themselves the added cost of additional years of paying college tuition and forgoing regular income. Again, it seems that Dordt College is a place where you have a good chance of getting your money’s worth for what you invest.

The articles in this issue highlight even more significant answers to the question of value. From the student experience point of view the answer is: You’ll get your money’s worth here. Dordt College has invested significantly in providing a top-flight residential college experience that combines both classroom and life activities into a full-orbed growth experience. I think it adds up to a comprehensive educational environment that seems hard to beat—and at a price that is more accessible than many comparable colleges and universities. 

Yet there’s still another point. According to a recent nationally-administered survey, over fifty percent of our graduating students responded that their Dordt College education had “challenged me to critically evaluate and reconsider values that I have always held.” At the same time more than seventy-five of our graduates indicated that “as a result of my experience at [Dordt], my values are more consistent with a Christian world and life view.” In other words, Dordt College provides an environment in which fundamental beliefs and values can be examined—but then also reaffirmed with a newfound maturity that can last for a lifetime of service in God’s kingdom. 

It’s been a long time since I was a student, so I’m not certain whether all incoming students would share my assessment. But I do know that in the survey I mentioned earlier, almost nine out of ten graduates said that if they had to start college over, they would choose Dordt College all over again. Clearly our graduates also believe such an experience was worth the cost. 

In today’s economic environment, we as a college have to try to make this education possible for as many as we can.  We certainly are thrilled that the U.S. government has agreed to increase dramatically the amount of federal aid available to our students as well as providing more generous tax credits to offset some of their educational costs. And thanks largely to generous supporters, we are allocating even greater levels of financial aid for prospective students than before. And, maybe most important, during this coming year Dordt College students will see one of the lowest increases in tuition and fees in recent memory.   

As a college president, I know better than to duck the question of cost. These are difficult times. Yet as long as Dordt College continues to provide the comprehensive, biblically-based education that the student stories in this issue of The Voice describe, I am confident that our graduates will continue to find their educational experience worth the cost—and that the Christ-centered perspective they form here will continue to benefit God’s kingdom for decades to come in whatever niche and calling Christ may lead them.

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