June 2016
Chancellor Philip P. DiStefano Philip P. DiStefano

Dear Friends,

CU logo on a graduation hat at commencement

What would you guess the unemployment rate is for 24- to 34-year-olds with a four-year college degree? Test your knowledge by taking this simple, one-question quiz in The New York Times.

If you are like me, you will be stunned by the misperceptions about the value of a college degree.

Most people who take the quiz believe those with a college degree have a higher unemployment rate than those without one. Some believe it's as high as 30 percent. Respondents on average said the unemployment rate for a college graduate in the 24 to 34 age bracket is 9.2 percent.   

In reality it is 2.4 percent. Compare that to 7 percent unemployment for those without a college degree.  

Four out of five jobs lost during the recession were lost by those lacking a college degree, according to a Georgetown University study. Yet, misperceptions continue about the value of a degree, fueled by an abundance of stories in the media questioning the financial return of college. The popular portrayal is of the unemployed college graduate saddled with debt living in their parents' basement. While that may occur, it is the exception rather than the rule.   

The truth is a bachelor's degree will earn, on average, nearly $1 million more over a lifetime than a high school degree, according to U.S. Census and Department of Labor statistics. (The New York Times puts the lifetime wage gap at a half million dollars, citing the 2012 Hamilton Project, an economic policy initiative at the Brookings Institution.)

Even figuring for the cost of tuition, including student debt (for which CU remains below the national average), the return on a college degree is much higher than other investments such as stocks, bonds and real estate, according to the Hamilton Project.

Bright outlook for CU grads

At CU-Boulder, 95 percent of graduates are working or enrolled in graduate school within six months of graduation. The median starting salary for a CU-Boulder bachelor's-degree holder is $40,000, while it's $67,000 for a master's-degree earner. I think we would all agree that the non-monetary benefits of a college degree also are compelling, but I will save that discussion for another day.

This misperception of how a college degree can positively change your life tells us it is doubly important that we communicate that value to the next generation of students. They deserve the same opportunity to pursue their dreams. This month and next we are hosting 1,500 middle and high school students in more than 20 summer college bridge programs to enrich their college preparation. Many of the students are underrepresented and first-generation students. Seeing their eyes light up when they realize the power of higher education is inspirational to us all who work with them.  

These young students are taking classes and labs in science and technology, business, the education profession and in media, communication and information. We are thrilled to have them on campus for the beginning of their own college journey, whether here at CU or at another university, and on the path to a lifetime of success.

Below are two of the programs I would like to share with you as well as additional news about the campus—including Thursday’s historic visit by the Dalai Lama—which I hope you will enjoy. 

Go Buffs!

Philip P. DiStefano

two students work on a robot

Programming robots launches interest in engineering

Diego Fierro, 13, hopes to be a mechanical engineer someday. And thanks to a LEGO Robotics: Space Challenge camp at CU-Boulder, Diego took one step closer to that dream this week. He was one of 30 middle school students from Skinner and Lake middle schools and Bryant Webster – an early childhood through eighth grade school – in Denver who built and programmed robots as part of CU-Boulder’s Science Discovery residential camp.

Nicolina Ursetta holds her engineering project in class

Back to the future: High schoolers get hands-on experience at CU-Boulder

A group of Denver high school students who recently descended on the CU-Boulder campus rolled up their sleeves for a week of real-world engineering experience and the opportunity to earn $2,500 scholarships. The 40 students were participating in the Campos EPC EngiNearMe Program, a partnership between CU-Boulder’s College of Engineering and Applied Science, the Denver Public Schools CareerConnect program and Campos EPC. 

Chancellor Philip P. DiStefano with the Dalai Lama

Dalai Lama draws thousands to Coors Events Center for words of wisdom

Thousands of people arrived at the Coors Events Center on Thursday, June 23, a lovely summer day, to embrace the wisdom of the 14th Dalai Lama. During two events—one sponsored by CU-Boulder and the other by the Tibetan Association of Colorado—the Tibetan spiritual leader spoke of the importance of love and compassion, and the sometimes arduous journey toward enlightenment.

giant ancient bear next to human silhouette

Early humans, giant Patagonian beasts: Then they saw them, now we don’t

The Washington Post and other news outlets featured some compelling research on what is known as “megafauna.” CU-Boulder Senior Research Associate Jessica Metcalf, lead study author and a former postdoctoral researcher at University of Adelaide’s Australian Centre for Ancient DNA, said the bears that stood 12 feet tall and weighed nearly a ton and other wildly large animals were felled by a warming climate – not human hunters.