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Opinion | MU can't claim it is affordable to the 'average Joe'

By Alison Block
On April 25, 2014

"A great education made affordable" is how Miami refers to itself in one of the most recent recruitment brochures aimed at prospective students. At $24,646 a year for Ohio residents and $40,436 for out-of-state students, "affordable" hardly seems to be the right term to describe the wonderful education Miami provides. As an out-of-state student, even with a substantial scholarship, I have to question that claim-the current four-year cost for out-of-state students is upward of $160,000. But according to Denise Krallman in the Office of Institutional Research, the definition Miami uses is altogether different than the traditional meaning.

"When you're talking about affordability, it's a combination of a quality education in a reasonable amount of time and at the end of that time we're hopeful that the students will either have a job or be going on to graduate or professional school."

And in fact, according to Krallman, the median time to graduate for Miami undergraduates is 3.7 years. In addition, of all students graduating in 2012-13, 91 percent either have a job lined up or have been accepted to graduate or professional schools. This is a much higher percentage than others around Ohio, as is Miami's four-year graduation rate.

"The most recent graduation rate, for example, for Kent State, is 52 percent, whereas we're 80 percent. UC's graduation rate is 55 percent," said Krallman.

Often, people look at Return on Investment reports like those on Payscale.com to see whether a college is really "worth" its tuition. Recently, a report came out stating that Miami's ROI is the first in Ohio, meaning we RedHawks get the most bang for our buck, so to speak. Though those numbers look good, looking at the ROI is not the best way to determine the worth of a Miami education, especially since they're put together by a third party using information Miami has published and statistics gathered from an uneven spread of Miami alumni.

"These ROI's are looking 30 years down the road. We can't do that," Krallman said.

Senior Sociology major and History minor Katie Kromer is beginning to look down the road, as she is graduating in May. Kromer fits Miami's definition well-she spent eight semesters in four years at Miami, and has different avenues open to her upon graduation.

"[I'm] still waiting to hear back from grad school and from job offers. I have a lot of options," said Kromer.

Kromer is an Ohio resident with a scholarship and has worked as an RA for the last two years. I asked if she thought Miami was affordable in the traditional meaning of the word.

"That's tricky. Comparing it to other state schools it's not, but comparing it to other private schools I would say it is. But for the education I'm getting, my experience here, yeah, I would say it's affordable," she said.

In the university's definition of the word, Kromer agreed that Miami is affordable.

Ohio resident Taylor Smith, a senior Strategic Communications major, had a different opinion. When I asked her if she thought Miami was affordable in the traditional sense, she replied with a very quick "no." Smith has been a Miami student longer than most-she entered in the fall of 2010 and will not be graduating until December of 2014, but she's actually graduating in only seven semesters.

"Technically, but I'll be here a semester later, because I took two semesters off. I did a Semester at Sea... and then I just took a semester off and did an internship."

Even though Smith has had an unusual path through Miami, it hasn't hindered her post-graduation options.

"I got offered a job last week, but then when they found out I'm graduating in December they said I should seek them out if I'm interested in the position when it comes time for my graduation," she said.

For Smith, affordability all comes down to how willing a student is to look for a job through LinkedIn and network with Miami alumni.

"A lot of my friends who've done that route have been really successful," she said. "I think in terms of jobs, offering positions is very rare. I think it's something you have to put a lot of effort into, which isn't necessarily weird or unusual. But the way they say that in 3.7 years, you'll have a job, it makes it sound like people reach out to you, which probably does happen but it seems like most of my friends have found their jobs through networking and reaching out to other people."

Krallman summed it up best, saying, "Students have to make that decision of the quality of the education they're getting here and if what they're going to leave with is going to help them throughout their career."

Think of it this way: Miami may or may not be affordable now, but graduating quickly with a fantastic education is sure to pay for itself many times over in the long run.


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