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Guest view: Measuring the value of our local college

In April 2015, then President Larry Anderson challenged the leadership team at Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College to be prepared to discuss the value of the college during a campus administrative meeting. For some reason I couldn’t attend, so I took time to write my thoughts and handed them to President Anderson before the meeting.

Six years later, as I was clearing out my office during the last days before I retired from the college, I came across my answer to Larry’s question. After re-visiting those 2015 thoughts about the college’s value, they certainly hold true as much today as they did then and are worth sharing with a wider audience.

Here is my answer to Larry’s question, “What is the value of Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College?”

The value of Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College rests in the opportunities we provide.

Obviously, we provide educational opportunities. Not only traditional college courses and degree programs, but a wide range of learning opportunities for our young children enrolled in the Li’l Thunder Learning Center all the way to our most veteran learners participating in our College for Seniors. We provide opportunities where access to higher education was limited before we opened our doors in 1987, and we provide opportunities to people who may have thought college was not an option. We relish the prospect of providing second-chance opportunities to students who may have stumbled somewhere along the way. Through college education and a positive college experience, we provide opportunities for a better future.

With our partnership between a tribal college and state community college, collectively we embrace the opportunity to be a role model as an institution, providing evidence that people from different backgrounds can come together under one roof to learn together, to work together, and to learn about each other. For employees, we were given this opportunity by the people who years ago envisioned and worked so hard to establish our unique institution and started the college up the right path to success. We accept the opportunity, and the challenge, to continue on this path.

Measuring the impact of financial opportunity we provide to students and their families is not too difficult. For example, an approximate $11,000 investment in two years of tuition yields the opportunity for career earnings of more than $1.5 million for a law enforcement officer; for a registered nurse, it soars to over $2 million in career earnings. It’s more difficult to tangibly measure the return on the investment when considering the impact our college education has on personal self-worth, individual satisfaction, and contributions to the communities where our graduates reside, but the positive stories are there. We hear them. We see them. We can rest assured that we provide opportunities for personal growth and the development of good citizens.

Finally, we can try to appraise our value with some approximate numbers:

$49.5 million annual economic impact

$12 million annual operating budget

40-acre campus with replacement value estimated at more than $100 million

125 professional employees

300 college degrees, diplomas, and certificates awarded each year

700 continuing education and customized training participants annually

2,300 students enrolled in credit-based courses

and thousands of visitors to campus events each year.

Less than 35 years ago, none of these numbers existed. With them, there is no doubt that Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College has added value to the communities we serve, and has enhanced the lives of thousands of people by providing opportunities that, not long ago, were not available.

Writer Tom Urbanski recently retired from his longtime role as director of public information for Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College. Contact him at [email protected]

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