Sound Strategy: Affordable, local education is our most important investment

Sound Strategy: Affordable, local education is our most important investment

March 9th, 2023

“It is not the mountain we conquer, but ourselves.” – Edmund Hillary

There are few better long-term indicators for the future of America than our investment in education at the national, state, and regional levels. Education is expensive, to be sure, but much less so than ignorance.  

While many of our current headlines talk about profound strategic challenges like Russia/Ukraine, the concern of a challenging China, or even stubborn economic issues like worrisome inflation, a core, and more pressing challenge might well be our direct ability to manage ourselves and invest in education.

Consider for a moment two numbers according to the New York Fed in 2022:

  • Student debt has risen an astonishing 330% since 2005. That’s more than any other household expense–healthcare, housing, gas, and so on–during that time.
  • 81% of families have ruled out the possibility of some college due to cost.

Broadly, those numbers suggest an increasing unaffordability of something that remains critically important to the future.

In this week’s “State of the State” address, Governor Roy Cooper highlighted this challenge as an enduring mission for our state’s elected leaders.

Let’s unpack that locally for a moment, though–so what? Well, those numbers suggest a few things right off the bat:

  • Students attending our College of the Albemarle as a part of a larger college career are saving someone a truckload of cash (both now and in the future). By some measures, it saves 50 percent off the price of a four-year college degree. Remember that 47 percent of students don’t graduate in four years.
  • The more local students that attend local community colleges in some way, the more affordable education becomes.
  • The more we invest in our education system–not only at the K-12 level–the more return on that investment we can expect as a region in terms of workforce quality, economic growth, and quality of life: period, all stop.

Now it’s our turn–spreading the word about College of the Albemarle doesn’t just fall on COA’s shoulders alone. Take a tour of some of their gorgeous campuses, for example, or reach out to the COA Foundation.

Recruiting students begins with recruiting parents, of course, and the more financial assistance we can deliver to students, the more attractive COA becomes around the dinner table. Especially for Dare County high school students, who can attend COA for free through the Dare County Guarantee Scholarship.

Three cheers for thinking about education as our most important investment. Three more for thinking about ways to make it more affordable, local, and possible. 

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