Jack's Insights: Education remains worth the investment

JACK WHITTIER Director UNL Panhandle Extension District and Panhandle Research and Extension Center

The first thing I want to do in this month’s column is thank those who helped make our recent N|150 Celebration a success. The events of the day were fun, productive, educational and celebratory – just as we had hoped. The contribution of the Gering High School Jazz Band and the Scottsbluff High School Accapella Choir was fun and highlighted the local talent as we celebrated the University of Nebraska.

The announcement by Bob Kelley of the Panhandle Research and Extension Center Scholarship Fund that resulted from Gering High’s success in the Samsung Solve for Tomorrow contest was also an important addition to the celebration. Anyone desiring to make further contributions to this scholarship fund may do so by contacting us here at the Panhandle R&E Center, or directly on-line at http://nufoundation.org/panhandlescholarship. Donations will help build the endowed fund and increase the number of scholarships which will be awarded annually.

It was also wonderful to have Chancellor Ronnie Green, his wife, Jane, and Vice Chancellor Mike Boehm from IANR attend the celebration as well. The presence of UNL’s upper administration emphasized the commitment they have to Western Nebraska.

I am writing this column on Memorial Day. All weekend my thoughts have been on the blessing of living in this country and the privilege of being an American. Yesterday I watched a TV show that spotlighted, in music and song, the contribution of the armed forces. The program began with the choir singing our national anthem. In honor of this great country, I stood with hand on heart and felt a tingle up my spine as they sang of the star spangled banner waving over the land of the free and the home of the brave. I am proud to be an American.

One of the tremendous outcomes following World War II was the passage of the GI Bill. The National WWII Museum website (https://www.nationalww2museum.org/students-teachers/student-resources/research-starters/research-starters-gi-bill) speaks of the impact of the GI bill on the growth of education in the United States. It says, “In 1947, World War II veterans accounted for nearly half of all college admissions and half of all World War II veterans participated in some form of education or job training with the benefits.” I believe one of the key reasons America is such a wonderful country is the emphasis placed on education, and the benefits education brings to our country.

On July 16, 2012, Christopher P. Loss, an assistant professor of public policy and higher education at Vanderbilt University, wrote the following in The Chronicle of Higher Education:

“…college education remains well worth the investment. Over time, college graduates have far greater earning potential and labor-market mobility than their less-educated peers; they tend to be more civically and politically engaged; they report a higher quality of life and enjoy a longer life expectancy; and they are more likely to have a significant other with a college degree, which often begets a final advantage: Children from college-educated households are more likely to become college graduates themselves. The benefits of a college diploma really do reach across the generations.”

The Morrill Act of 1862 created the Land Grant University system, of which the University of Nebraska is part and has been since the university was chartered in 1869. Loss writes further about the impact of this act:

“That’s why the Morrill Act still matters, despite the many educators, administrators, and policy makers who mistakenly think of higher education as a private enterprise, unmoored from the public it was created to serve. The Morrill Act symbolizes the public trust that has given life to our nation’s entire educational system for the past 150 years – and it reminds us all of the public commitment that will be necessary for the system to thrive for 150 more.”

I think of all those veterans who have taken advantage of the GI bill, who then went on the do research which has helped further the ranchers and farmers here in the Panhandle. I also think of those veterans who went back to the ranches and farms after their service and have gleaned information which is now feeding our country and the world with their products.

I feel fortunate to have had the privilege of a college education. I am also grateful to currently be connected to one of the great land-grant universities in the United States. I hope we at the UNL Panhandle Research and Extension Center can continue to serve the needs of Western Nebraska as we set a course for our next 150 years.

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