8 College Degrees That Will Earn Your Money Back

Is College Still Worth the Money? Maybe.

As the cost of education continues to skyrocket and job prospects remain less than robust in a tough economy, the answer to the question, “What are you majoring in?” seems more important than ever.

There’s no getting around it. Education is expensive. A four-year degree at a public university costs, on average, $37,343, while an education at a private school will set you back $121,930. While statistics show that a college degree will undoubtedly open doors and increase your earning potential, you need to choose your degree carefully to ensure you’re making a wise investment.goodroi_intro

Last week, we highlighted 8 college degrees with a poor return on investment. This week, we’ll head to the other end of the spectrum and show you 8 college degrees with great ROI (in no particular order), as well as some examples of jobs within each industry.


Calculate ROI for a specific degree, we first determined the overall cost of the degree. We allowed the degree holder four years to graduate. Using data from a recent College Board study, we assigned a figure of $37,343 as an average cost of a four-year public liberal arts degree, and a figure of $121,930 for degrees earned at four-year private colleges. The total cost included tuition, room and board, and books, and did not factor in scholarships or grants. We then determined the median cash compensation over the course of 30 years of typical jobs requiring that degree using Salary.com data. We used current Salary.com figures, but added 4.3% per year to account for inflation and cost of living increases. To determine ROI, we subtracted the cost of the degree from the gains over 30 years, then divided that figure by cost.

8. Math

If you love crunching numbers and solving complex problems, there are lots of career options for math majors with a great ROI. But of course you don’t need me to do the math! Here are three jobs commonly held by math majors (click on job title and/or salary for more information):

Median Salary: $70,029
30-Year Earnings: $4,130,308
ROI of Degree Earner Attending Public College: 110%
ROI of Degree Earner Attending Private College: 33%

Median Salary: $146,456
30-Year Earnings: $8,637,969
ROI of Degree Earner Attending Public College: 230%
ROI of Degree Earner Attending Private College: 70%

Median Salary: $76,241
30-Year Earnings: $4,496,691
ROI of Degree Earner Attending Public College: 119%
ROI of Degree Earner Attending Private College: 36%

7. Information Technology

While the rest of us are happy when we find the computer’s “on” switch, IT majors actually know what’s going on inside. Here are three jobs commonly held by Information Technology majors:

Median Salary: $80,584
30-Year Earnings: $4,752,841
ROI of Degree Earner Attending Public College: 126%
ROI of Degree Earner Attending Private College: 38%

Median Salary: $109,604
30-Year Earnings: $6,464,440
ROI of Degree Earner Attending Public College: 172%
ROI of Degree Earner Attending Private College: 52%

Median Salary: $107,578
30-Year Earnings: $6,344,946
ROI of Degree Earner Attending Public College: 169%
ROI of Degree Earner Attending Private College: 51%

6. Human Resources

Human resources majors serve as the gatekeepers to organizations, reviewing resumes, managing the hiring and firing processes, and developing policies that ensure employees are happy, healthy, and productive. Here are three jobs commonly held by human resources majors:

Median Salary: $94,978
30-Year Earnings: $5,601,799
ROI of Degree Earner Attending Public College: 149%
ROI of Degree Earner Attending Private College: 45%

Median Salary: $88,916
30-Year Earnings: $5,244,262
ROI of Degree Earner Attending Public College: 139%
ROI of Degree Earner Attending Private College: 42%

Median Salary: $87,184
30-Year Earnings: $5,142,109
ROI of Degree Earner Attending Public College: 137%
ROI of Degree Earner Attending Private College: 41%

5. Economics

If you’re interested in how things are produced, distributed, and consumed, consider a major in economics. Three jobs held by economics majors include:

Median Salary: $115,671
30-Year Earnings: $6,822,271
ROI of Degree Earner Attending Public College: 182%
ROI of Degree Earner Attending Private College: 55%

Median Salary: $108,732
30-Year Earnings: $6,413,009
ROI of Degree Earner Attending Public College: 171%
ROI of Degree Earner Attending Private College: 52%

Median Salary: $142,921
30-Year Earnings: $8,429,475
ROI of Degree Earner Attending Public College: 225%
ROI of Degree Earner Attending Private College: 68%

4. Biology

If you’re fascinated with the natural world, you can use that passion to make a good living by choosing to study biology. Three jobs held by biology majors include:

Median Salary: $85,292
30-Year Earnings: $5,030,519
ROI of Degree Earner Attending Public College: 134%
ROI of Degree Earner Attending Private College: 40%

Median Salary: $72,812
30-Year Earnings: $4,294,449
ROI of Degree Earner Attending Public College: 114%
ROI of Degree Earner Attending Private College: 34%

Median Salary: $71,758
30-Year Earnings: $4,232,284
ROI of Degree Earner Attending Public College: 114%
ROI of Degree Earner Attending Private College: 34%

3. Engineering

Were you the kid who drove your parents crazy taking the toasters apart and putting them back together? Engineering majors have excellent problem solving skills and a knack for developing products, devices, and systems. Three jobs held by engineering majors include:

Median Salary: $75,225
30-Year Earnings: $4,436,768
ROI of Degree Earner Attending Public College: 118%
ROI of Degree Earner Attending Private College: 35%

Median Salary: $71,715
30-Year Earnings: $4,229,748
ROI of Degree Earner Attending Public College: 112%
ROI of Degree Earner Attending Private College: 34%

Median Salary: $91,997
30-Year Earnings: $5,425,980
ROI of Degree Earner Attending Public College: 144%
ROI of Degree Earner Attending Private College: 44%

2. Marketing

If you’re interested in why people make the decisions they do, have excellent leadership qualities and the ability to persuade, and could sell ice to Eskimos, then consider majoring in marketing. Three jobs held by marketing majors include:

Median Salary: $86,591
30-Year Earnings: $5,107,134
ROI of Degree Earner Attending Public College: 136%
ROI of Degree Earner Attending Private College: 41%

Median Salary: $92,216
30-Year Earnings: $5,438, 896
ROI of Degree Earner Attending Public College: 145%
ROI of Degree Earner Attending Private College: 44%

Median Salary: $86,127
30-Year Earnings: $5,079,767
ROI of Degree Earner Attending Public College: 135%
ROI of Degree Earner Attending Private College: 41%

1. English

What could be better? For four years you do lots of writing and reading, you talk about writing and reading, then follow up with more writing and reading. Then, the sky’s the limit. Common jobs held by English majors include:

Median Salary: $78,011
30-Year Earnings: $4,601,086
ROI of Degree Earner Attending Public College: 122%
ROI of Degree Earner Attending Private College: 37%

Median Salary: $88,498
30-Year Earnings: $5,219,609
ROI of Degree Earner Attending Public College: 139%
ROI of Degree Earner Attending Private College: 42%

Median Salary: $79,674
30-Year Earnings: $4,699,170
ROI of Degree Earner Attending Public College: 125%
ROI of Degree Earner Attending Private College: 38%

Make Your Money Count, But Do What You Love

When all is said and done, the best way to get the biggest bang for your education buck is to truly love what you do. But while few things contribute to your ultimate earning power like passion and excelling at what you do, it doesn’t hurt to know you’ll be able to pay off those college loans a little sooner!

Original article by Dawn Dugan: http://www.salary.com/8-college-degrees-that-will-earn-your-money-back/


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Freud is Laughing (‘to keep from crying’)

In Sigmund Freud’sThe Joke and Its Relation to the Unconscious, he argues that the energy released in laughter is not the energy of the repressed emotion itself (the safety-valve model) but the psychic energy that would have been used to repress the thoughts or feelings if the joke had not allowed them to enter our conscious minds. A joke about an undertaker allows our fear of death to be expressed, and the laughter is the “letting off” of the surplus psychic energy that would otherwise have been used to repress it. The more energy it would have taken to repress the fear, the bigger the laugh will be.


Sigmund Freud

Adapted from, Mary Beard, What’s So Funny?

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Our unrealistic views of death, through a doctor’s eyes [an MDs perspective]

I know where this phone call is going. I’m on the hospital wards, and a physician in the emergency room downstairs is talking to me about an elderly patient who needs to be admitted to the hospital. The patient is new to me, but the story is familiar: He has several chronic conditions — heart failure, weak kidneys, anemia, Parkinson’s and mild dementia — all tentatively held in check by a fistful of medications. He has been falling more frequently, and his appetite has fallen off, too. Now a stroke threatens to topple this house of cards.

The ER physician and I talk briefly about what can be done. The stroke has driven the patient’s blood pressure through the roof, aggravating his heart failure, which in turn is threatening his fragile kidneys. The stroke is bad handsenough that, given his disabilities related to his Parkinson’s, he will probably never walk again. In elderly patients with a web of medical conditions, the potential complications of any therapy are often large and the benefits small. It’s a medical checkmate; all moves end in abdication.

I head to the ER. If I’m lucky, the family will accept the news that, in a time when we can separate conjoined twins and reattach severed limbs, people still wear out and die of old age. If I’m lucky, the family will recognize that their loved one’s life is nearing its end.

But I’m not always lucky. The family may ask me to use my physician superpowers to push the patient’s tired body further down the road, with little thought as to whether the additional suffering to get there will be worth it. For many Americans, modern medical advances have made death seem more like an option than an obligation. We want our loved ones to live as long as possible, but our culture has come to view death as a medical failure rather than life’s natural conclusion.

These unrealistic expectations often begin with an overestimation of modern medicine’s power to prolong life, a misconception fueled by the dramatic increase in the American life span over the past century. To hear that the average U.S. life expectancy was 47 years in 1900 and 78 years as of 2007, you might conclude that there weren’t a lot of old people in the old days — and that modern medicine invented old age. But average life expectancy is heavily skewed by childhood deaths, and infant mortality rates were high back then. In 1900, the U.S. infant mortality rate was approximately 100 infant deaths per 1,000 live births. In 2000, the rate was 6.89 infant deaths per 1,000 live births.

The bulk of that decline came in the first half of the century, from simple public health measures such as improved sanitation and nutrition, not open heart surgery, MRIs or sophisticated medicines. Similarly, better obstetrical education and safer deliveries in that same period also led to steep declines in maternal mortality, so that by 1950, average life expectancy had catapulted to 68 years.

For all its technological sophistication and hefty price tag, modern medicine may be doing more to complicate the end of life than to prolong or improve it. If a person living in 1900 managed to survive childhood and childbearing, she had a good chance of growing old. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a person who made it to 65 in 1900 could expect to live an average of 12 more years; if she made it to 85, she could expect to go another fouryears. In 2007, a 65-year-old American could expect to live, on average, another 19 years; if he made it to 85, he could expect to go another six years.

Another factor in our denial of death has more to do with changing demographics than advances in medical science. Our nation’s mass exodus away from the land and an agricultural existence and toward a more urban lifestyle means that we’ve antiseptically left death and the natural world behind us. At the beginning of the Civil War, 80 percent of Americans lived in rural areas and 20 percent lived in urban ones. By 1920, with the Industrial Revolution in full swing, the ratio was around 50-50; as of 2010, 80 percent of Americans live in urban areas.

For most of us living with sidewalks and street lamps, death has become a rarely witnessed, foreign event. The most up-close death my urban-raised children have experienced is the occasional walleye being reeled toward doom on a family fishing trip or a neighborhood squirrel sentenced to death-by-Firestone. The chicken most people eat comes in plastic wrap, not at the end of a swinging cleaver. The farmers I take care of aren’t in any more of a hurry to die than my city-dwelling patients, but when death comes, they are familiar with it. They’ve seen it, smelled it, had it under their fingernails. A dying cow is not the same as a person nearing death, but living off the land strengthens one’s understanding that all living things eventually die.

Mass urbanization hasn’t been the only thing to alienate us from the circle of life. Rising affluence has allowed us to isolate senescence. Before nursing homes, assisted-living centers and in-home nurses, grandparents, their children and their grandchildren were often living under the same roof, where everyone’s struggles were plain to see. In 1850, 70 percent of white elderly adults lived with their children. By 1950, 21 percent of the overall population lived in multigenerational homes, and today that figure is only 16 percent. Sequestering our elderly keeps most of us from knowing what it’s like to grow old.

This physical and emotional distance becomes obvious as we make decisions that accompany life’s end. Suffering is like a fire: Those who sit closest feel the most heat; a picture of a fire gives off no warmth. That’s why it’s typically the son or daughter who has been physically closest to an elderly parent’s pain who is the most willing to let go. Sometimes an estranged family member is “flying in next week to get all this straightened out.” This is usually the person who knows the least about her struggling parent’s health; she’ll have problems bringing her white horse as carry-on luggage. This person may think she is being driven by compassion, but a good deal of what got her on the plane was the guilt and regret of living far away and having not done any of the heavy lifting in caring for her parent.

With unrealistic expectations of our ability to prolong life, with death as an unfamiliar and unnatural event, and without a realistic, tactile sense of how much a worn-out elderly patient is suffering, it’s easy for patients and families to keep insisting on more tests, more medications, more procedures.

Doing something often feels better than doing nothing. Inaction feeds the sense of guilt-ridden ineptness family members already feel as they ask themselves, “Why can’t I do more for this person I love so much?”

Opting to try all forms of medical treatment and procedures to assuage this guilt is also emotional life insurance: When their loved one does die, family members can tell themselves, “We did everything we could for Mom.” In my experience, this is a stronger inclination than the equally valid (and perhaps more honest) admission that “we sure put Dad through the wringer those last few months.”

At a certain stage of life, aggressive medical treatment can become sanctioned torture. When a case such as this comes along, nurses, physicians and therapists sometimes feel conflicted and immoral. We’ve committed ourselves to relieving suffering, not causing it. A retired nurse once wrote to me: “I am so glad I don’t have to hurt old people any more.”

When families talk about letting their loved ones die “naturally,” they often mean “in their sleep” — not from a treatable illness such as a stroke, cancer or an infection. Choosing to let a loved one pass away by not treating an illness feels too complicit; conversely, choosing treatment that will push a patient into further suffering somehow feels like taking care of him. While it’s easy to empathize with these family members’ wishes, what they don’t appreciate is that very few elderly patients are lucky enough to die in their sleep. Almost everyone dies of something.

Close friends of ours brought their father, who was battling dementia, home to live with them for his final, beautiful and arduous years. There they loved him completely, even as Alzheimer’s took its dark toll. They weren’t staring at a postcard of a fire; they had their eyebrows singed by the heat. When pneumonia finally came to get him, they were willing to let him go.


This original article by Dr. Craig Bowron appeared in The Washington Post on 02/17/2012

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Finding Meaning After Academe: It turns out you can no longer do what you love. Now what?

The “do what you love” mantra pervades academe, engendering seemingly rational people to forsake lucrative careers for the study of Mediterranean archaeology or, in my case, classical Tamil love poetry…

During my years in graduate school, that philosophy toward work was rarely challenged. On the contrary, in subtle and overt ways, my colleagues and professors reinforced the belief that it is more noble to pursue a love of literature, history, or science than to pursue financial stability. It was a seductive fantasy, especially since, for a time, my work—the teaching, the research, and the digging through archives in far-flung corners of the world—made me very happy.

The problem, however, is that for the vast majority of newly minted Ph.D.’s, it is now close to impossible to find financially viable academic work. Toward the end of my doctoral program, that grim economic reality eventually set in, forcing me to make difficult decisions about my future. I applied to hundreds of positions and went on dozens of interviews over the course of two years, only to find myself with no good options at the end of that grueling process. GraduatingMy choices came down to taking adjunct work or leaving the academy altogether. Reluctantly, I chose the latter: I filed my dissertation, started an internship at a public-relations agency, and put academe behind me.

In an essay in Jacobin magazine earlier this year, Miya Tokumitsu notes that the “do what you love” ideology embedded within academic culture makes Ph.D.’s prime targets for exploitation, most obviously as adjunct laborers. Undervaluing financial reward in favor of emotional satisfaction is one reason so many Ph.D’s are willing to perform high-skilled labor for so little pay. “Because academic research should be done out of pure love,” she argues, “the actual conditions of and compensation for this labor become afterthoughts, if they are considered at all.”

But sooner or later, the question of compensation becomes impossible to ignore.

When confronted with the instability and poverty that accompany adjunct employment, many Ph.D.’s are compelled to consider alternative careers, and a significant number will cross over into the nonacademic realm. According to recent studies from the American Historical Association and Modern Language Association, 24.2 percent of history Ph.D.’s and 21 percent of English and foreign-language Ph.D.’s have, over the last decade, pursued nonacademic careers.

In my experience, the transition out of academe can be painful. Apart from the stresses of job hunting, one of the most challenging parts of the process for me was confronting the possibility that I might no longer be one of the lucky people able to do what I love.

Over the last three years, I’ve discovered that this fear was unfounded. I now work at a public-relations agency where I help technology companies refine their corporate messages and get media attention. My job is creative, intellectually challenging, and allows me to use my strongest skills: writing, public speaking, idea generation. I have found that specialized knowledge and critical thinking are highly valued across industries, many of which are willing to pay high-skilled workers commensurately. Teaching skills are also important in the nonacademic workplace in such contexts as explaining complex research and mentoring junior staff members.

It is true that I do not feel the same obstinate devotion to my PR job that I once felt about academe, but perhaps that is a good thing: The fact that I am not wedded to my job means that my employer does not have the power to exploit me in ways that universities exploit their workers. Also, while people everywhere fuse their personal identity with their work, that tendency is much more pronounced inside of the academy than outside it. In my new life, I can leave my work at the office and pursue my other passions in my free time, an arrangement that gives my life more flexibility and balance.

It took me years—and several paradigm shifts—to arrive at the conclusion that it is possible for a former academic to have a meaningful career outside of academe. Here are a few things I wish I had known earlier in my journey.

Notions of time. One of my greatest fears about leaving academe was that I would no longer have control over my time. After years of making my own hours, the concept of being bound by a rigid, 9-to-5 corporate schedule unsettled me. What I did not realize is that the fixed boundaries that demarcate work time from leisure time serve an important function: They separate workers from their work.

Academe, on the other hand, is an all-encompassing lifestyle that involves teaching, writing recommendation letters, fieldwork, speaking at conferences, producing manuscripts, among many other things. Without external forces compartmentalizing their time, it is easy for academics to wrap up their whole lives in their work, which is why, as Tokumitsu points out in her essay, scholars tend to fuse their personal identity so intimately with their work output.

While there are many parts of my new career that I enjoy—working alongside supportive colleagues, learning new technical skills, developing creative media campaigns—there is also less pressure for my work to be my only source of happiness. On a daily basis, I have both success and failure on the job, but in either case, my response is tempered because my work is just one aspect of my life. It isn’t my whole life. On bad days, when a client is in a bad mood or when I feel the ideas I’m pitching are lackluster, it is liberating to be able to leave the office, get a cocktail, and pursue my other passions. That is worlds away from the utter devastation I would feel as an academic when, for example, I received unkind criticism about my research.

Public intellectuals can thrive outside of academe. Another revelation for me: Academe is not the only place to find vibrant intellectual engagement. As I was changing careers, I feared I would no longer be able to contribute to the discourse in my fields of South Asian studies and gender studies, thereby squandering the years I spent acquiring expertise in those areas.

What I’ve discovered is that there are many spaces where specialized content knowledge is valuable. The Internet has made it easy to participate in conversations about a vast range of subjects. Online publications are always keen for fresh, insightful content that Ph.D.’s are well positioned to contribute.

Today, rather than writing for academic journals, I write for mainstream magazines, newspapers, and blogs, while also working on a book project. As people have shown interest in my published work, they have occasionally invited me to give lectures at libraries, conferences, and even universities. So in many ways, there has been continuity between my former career and my current life. It is even possible that I am reaching a wider audience than I would have had I confined my research to academic journals.

That horrible first year. While I have now found my equilibrium in the nonacademic workplace, it took time. The first year was particularly brutal: I was wrestling with a sense of loss about leaving my research behind and struggling to make sense of my identity outside the university. Those negative emotions were aggravated by the fact that my first job outside academe was not particularly exciting. As an intern at a PR agency, I was surrounded by colleagues and even managers who were younger than me. The work itself was elementary, involving things like creating simple reports and scanning the news for press coverage about the clients.

Unfortunately, that kind of transitional work is necessary for Ph.D.’s who do not have the corporate skills to be immediately useful outside the academy and need to learn the basics of their new industry. What I did not realize is that after the first few months, Ph.D’s have the potential to ascend the corporate ladder quickly. The combination of an impressive academic pedigree and corporate experience can make us very competitive candidates as we move through the ranks.

Had I known how much better things would be once I turned that corner, I would probably not have considered quitting quite so many times in that horrible, no-good, very bad first year.

Finding new meaning in life. In a recent article in The New York Times,Gordon Marino makes the case that the “do what you love” ethos is naïve and inward-looking. Self-fulfillment, he argues, can come from doing work that you had not sought out to do, but that simply needed to be done. Indeed, “we can be as mistaken about our views on happiness as anything else.”

That was true for me. When you are thinking through what will make you fulfilled, you only have your own limited experiences on which to draw. It’s hard to know what might make you happy in unfamiliar realms. I pursued an academic career because I thought it would give my life meaning, but as I veer further and further away from the path I had initially set for myself, I have found that there are many rich sources of meaning in life. Over the last three years, I have stumbled upon fulfilling work that I never would have discovered had I not been nudged out of academe.

To the extent that my experience and Marino’s argument apply to others facing a similar, apparently bleak transition, the prescription is clear: Be open to alternative tracks, even if they are not what you had envisioned, and take the plunge. And maybe, like me, you won’t look back.


By Elizabeth Segran, a freelance writer who writes for The Atlantic, Foreign Affairs, and The Nation, among other publications. She is also a public-relations consultant at SHIFT Communications. She received her Ph.D. in South and Southeast Asian studies from the University of California at Berkeley. Her website is Elizabethsegran.com.

(From, The Chronicle of Higher Education)

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‘Rebranding HBCUs’ Critical for Success in the 21st Century

Morris Brown College, St. Paul’s College, Saint Augustine’s University, and other historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) have been in the news because they struggle to survive. At the same time, online learning, for-profit universities, and other new forms have emerged to deliver higher education. 

HBCUs must change or diminish. Visions, missions, branding, strategy and governance have grown obsolete. These must all be corrected to make sure the schools are effective and successful for another 100 years.HBCUthen

Vision: The HBCUs have generally seen their role as offering education at reasonable cost to previously excluded, “disadvantaged” students. They are often the first generation in their family to attend college. The colleges say they create opportunities to gain training and credentials that open doors and make upward mobility a realistic possibility. This vision is actually now a hindrance. The colleges are operating in a new competitive reality. Students can, and do, find nurturing, understanding, encouraging, supportive resources at many other institutions, because they have changed. In the new competitive environment, that has emerged since the civil rights movement opened the doors of previously segregated colleges, HBCUs need a new vision. The new vision should, generally be to provide quality education to a diverse student body, in a competitive institution that is on equal standing to all other similarly situated institutions.

Mission: In general, the missions of the HBCUs are similar to the visions: To help the poorly prepared, to remediate, and to provide understanding, and sensitivity to their students. Instead, the missions of HBCUs should be to rise in the rankings from fourth tier to third or second tier by 2020 and to benchmark on higher-ranked schools so as to continuously improve in all aspects of curriculum, teaching, research, and service. And by doing that to serve a diverse student body who find our approach a good fit for their personal preferences.

Branding: The HBCUs have long promoted themselves as offering special emphasis on African American heritage, history, cultural awareness, and sensitivity. They have positioned themselves as havens for students who would be shunned, or marginalized at other institutions, because of their race. Those are out of date concepts. The demographic and competitive realities have changed. The HBCUs now face competition for these students and are not operating in protected markets any longer. They must now enroll a diverse student body. They can still honor their legacies with centers, institutes, research programs, buildings, named scholarships, arts programs and festivals of many kinds named for founders, alumni, and important historical figures. HBCU nowBut “Blackness” per se, cannot be a successful, or meaningful differentiator that carries real advantages or weight. These institutions must compete in the general market place of higher education, and must do it well. HBCUs should form a new organization –  The National Association of Colleges and Universities (NACU). NACU will help them compete by focusing on operating effectiveness, great governance, and quality leadership development. It will complement NAFEO (National Association for Equal Opportunity), UNCF (United Negro College Fund), and the Thurgood Marshall College Fund. Further, the members of the new NACU should brand themselves not as HBCUs, but as High Value Colleges and Universities (HVCUs). HVCUs will send the kind of signal that will change their perception and standing in the eyes of accrediting agencies, potential applicants, faculty, administrators, and donors. With those fresh brands, the 100 current HBCUs will be able to rethink their place among the 3,500 colleges and universities in the United States and the emerging online, and for-profit competition that seems to have a strong attraction for certain cohorts of African Americans seeking higher education on reasonable terms.

Strategy and Governance: The HBCUs have been in the news with stories of financial weakness, accreditation defects, dropping enrollment, leadership misbehavior and turnover, and student, alumni, and employer dissatisfaction. These are symptoms of poor leadership and weak strategies. Boards of trustees are the root of many of the problems. They are too often composed of cronies, figures with religious backgrounds and no credible experience, knowledge, or ability in strategic thinking and analysis. Many have no useful resource networks, and no valuable contribution to make in understanding higher education, or adding value to charting a successful new direction. Boards must change. They must be composed of serious professionals, drawn from business, law, the sciences, entrepreneurs, and especially from investment banking, and management consulting, where the right skills are present to a high degree. Boards must agree to annual rigorous training, as offered by groups like the National Association of  Corporate Directors. And boards must agree to annual third-party evaluation.

HBCUhandsTraining and serious objective performance evaluation is missing at most HBCUs. Adding these requirements will go far toward turning around troubled institutions, and insuring that those that are currently succeeding, can compete even more effectively in the future.

The HBCUs should all be fully engaged with the Association of Governing Boards. AGB offers valuable orientation for new board members, and quality ongoing governance assistance. This resource is grossly underutilized by these schools. Likewise, the American Council on Education is available, and the schools should be proactively working with ACE on all aspects of strategy and operational improvement. There have been times in the past when the Rockefeller Foundation, and farsighted HBCU leaders worked to strengthen specific functions like treasurer, registrar, deans of students, etc. These working programs were successful, and did strengthen operations. But for various reasons, these collaborations were not sustained. Now, is the time to re-engage. Conclusion: HBCUs can thrive if they change their self-image, sense of mission, and market, and drop old habits that hinder progress in a modern world of changing demographics.

- By Richard F. America, an adjunct professor at the McDonough School of Business at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C.

(The original article ‘Rebranding HBCUs’ appeared in The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education. Click here JBHE )


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It’s Time for Black Scholars to Escape the Academic Plantation

I argue that it’s time for black scholars to re-consider the manner and creativity by which they pursue their career objectives. The academic plantation offers some black scholars a false validity; part of the “mama I made it” syndrome that adds almost nothing to the communities from which they came. Many of them are convinced that they are being groomed to be a lasting part of the infrastructure of their campuses, only to find that they were part of a superficial diversity quota. For the small number of black scholars who make it through this skewed and biased system, the rewards are a fancy office, a little bit of money, a contrived sense of prestige and the validation that we are constantly seeking from those who have been historically-positioned to control our thinking.  But when real impact on the black community is measured, an endless trail of intellectual aerobics is necessary to figure out where we’ve actually made a difference.

- Dr. Boyce Watkins

When I first thought about getting a PhD in Business, I found out about the PhD Project. This ground-breaking initiative had the simple goal of creating more black professors to sit in the front of the classroom. It was established by the KPMG Foundation, and from what I understand, might have been in response to a series of complaints about racism that the organization had received in the past.

Since that time, the group has produced scores of black scholars in the field of business, an area that is in dire need of meaningful diversity. I was the only African American in the world to earn a PhD in Finance during the year 2002, and my university had never hired a black Finance Professor in its entire 130-year history. Business tends to be a very conservative field, where black people are still locked out at every turn (the Business School here at Syracuse, along with many others around the nation, has several departments that have never given tenure to an African American, which is downright racist and shameful).

I spoke recently to a friend about the PhD Project, which led to a tense discussion about how we train our black scholars. The models tend to be simple, primitive and somewhat counter-productive: Get your PhD, find a job at the best (typically predominantly white) university you possibly can, and spend the rest of your life doing research to publish in allegedly “prestigious” academicjournals that almost no one ever reads.  No one tells us who decided that one journal is more prestigious than the other; we are just expected to do what we are told.

Black Scholars and Leaders for Social and Political Justice

Father Michael Pfleger, Dr. Boyce Watkins, Dr. SaFiya D. Hoskins, Wallace ‘Gator’ Bradley, Dr. Cornel West

As you spend your career writing one research paper after another, you also teach classes, with many of them having only one or two black students. White folks have all the money, so the dominant paradigm in this model of academic imperialism is to disappear from the black community and use your PhD as your ticket to “Never Land.” I know Never Land very well: As a “young negro prodigy,” (folks get excited when they see a black male with straight As) I was accepted into the best programs, studied under leading scholars and have more than my share of academic publications. I was brainwashed…I mean trained very well, and I know this system better than a man knows his ex-wife.

As a result of this antiquated approach to professional development, thousands of promising careers are ruined before they even begin. Our brightest minds are extracted from black America like barrels of oil from the soil of Nigeria. Even sadder is that the system to which so many black scholars dedicate their lives often leaves them used up, frustrated and feeling professionally worthless. Most predominantly white universities are willing to consider hiring black scholars for a few years, but almost never give them tenure, like the professional athlete who gladly sleeps with black women, but then runs off to marry the white girl.

I argue that it’s time for black scholars to re-consider the manner and creativity by which they pursue their career objectives. The academic plantation offers some black scholars a false validity; part of the “mama I made it” syndrome that adds almost nothing to the communities from which they came. Many of them are convinced that they are being groomed to be a lasting part of the infrastructure of their campuses, only to find that they were part of a superficial diversity quota. For the small number of black scholars who make it through this skewed and biased system, the rewards are a fancy office, a little bit of money, a contrived sense of prestige and the validation that we are constantly seeking from those who have been historically-positioned to control our thinking.  But when real impact on the black community is measured, an endless trail of intellectual aerobics is necessary to figure out where we’ve actually made a difference.

For the majority of black scholars who are spit out by the system, there is almost no reward. After the academic honeymoon is over, scores of black scholars are k!cked to the curb, like the prostitute with messy hair, smudged makeup and a rip in her stockings the morning after a late-night date. They buy into the scheme lock, stock and barrel, only to find that the platform was designed to empower the blonde-haired, blue-eyed man down the hall. Some expect to change the way things are done on their campuses, but you can’t move into someone else’s house and expect them to let you shift around the furniture.  The best you can do as a black scholar is to do a very good job of imitating the white ones – but when you are trying to be someone else, you will never be perceived as anything better than a faulty version of the original.

I argue that it’s time to break the chains and get black scholars off the academic plantation. It is perfectly fine for scholars to teach at white universities and do research in journals controlled by white males. But it is also OK for us to re-engage our communities, earn multiple sources of income and find other relevant platforms through which we can share our expertise with our communities. Our value is undeniable, even if academia rejects us, and we cannot allow self-righteous judgments by culturally-incompetent colleagues to undermine our self-esteem.

The PhD Project, and other well-intended (albeit somewhat paternalistic) organizations would be wise to open the door for other ways of thinking among young African American scholars. In my own career, I was well-prepared for the possibility that my work in the black community would be undervalued by my peers. The Whitman School of management at Syracuse University had not granted tenure to any African American in over 100 years, so I knew that an outspoken black man would likely not be their most-favored son. Letters and calls of support from Jesse Jackson, Cornel West, Al Sharpton, Michael Eric Dyson and Julianne Malveaux would make little difference in a place that has been conditioned to view black scholarship through a lens that is dusty with the sick poison of curdled American racism.

So, to prepare for all possibilities and to ensure that my 10 years of hard work didn’t go to waste (getting a PhD in Finance was the most difficult thing I’d ever done), I learned how to start my own business. I knew that if I had multiple sources of income, I would not be fighting with my colleagues over a $3,000 raise, or end up thinking that getting a lifetime job via tenure was my only path to financial security.  One hilarious fact about many American business schools is that most of the faculty have never run a business or worked for one, so I also saw this as a test of whether or not I actually understand my field and have the intelligence to succeed outside the comfort of the Ivory Tower.

After starting my own business, I worked to expand the size of my classroom. The Internet and traditional media served as wonderful ways that I could re-engage my community by speaking and teaching on the issues of the day with those who respect my points of view as a black man. I also found that the appreciation I received from my community for my hard work (yes, I am a workaholic) more than compensated for the fact that my own campus always treated me like an academic leper. The teaching, research and service awards that many black scholars are conditioned to chase are not meant for us; a few of us get them, but most of us are left unrecognized for our accomplishments.

As a result of pushing outside of my comfort zone, the Your Black World Coalition has grown to over 72,000 members nation-wide. Also, over 1,000 appearances in national media during the last five years has given me an opportunity to find “students” around the world, creating a peaceful psychological escape from the petty and small-minded things happening in the faculty meeting down the hall.  I’ve had educators telling me that I am a “bad boy” since I was five years old.  Once I decided to stop being afraid to let the world know who I really am, I was able to find out what true academic freedom really means.   I am no longer a Finance Professor who just happens to be black….I am a black man who just happens to be a Finance Professor. 

Even Jesus reminded us that sometimes the church can stand in the way of truly connecting to God.  Similarly, academia can sometimes get in the way of one’s ability to pursue meaningful scholarship. By using the resources around us, thinking outside the box and letting go of our need for external validation from the descendants of our historical oppressors, black scholars can elevate our impact to levels that were previously unimaginable.

We must teach young black intellectuals what it really means to be a scholar without filling their heads with pompous, culturally irrelevant, counterproductive protocols that were designed without our people in mind. I am hopeful that the PhD Project and any other group in a position to mentor African Americans realizes that these young minds are not meant to be shepherded into a system that is designed to destroy them….they should be liberated so they might fulfill their greatest potential.

As my friend George Fraser once said, “The black community doesn’t need more PhDs…..it actually needs more Ph-Dos.” We must first elevate if we are going to properly educate.   If black scholars don’t  learn to define our own paths and gain the courage to pursue them, our wall full of credentials become as meaningless as the paint on the wall itself.

Dr. Boyce Watkins is the founder of the Your Black WorldCoalition and author of the book, “Black American Money: How Black Power Can Thrive in a Capitalist Society.”   He is also the creator of the “Building Outstanding Men and Boys (B.O.M.B.) Family Empowerment Tour.




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Public Media in a Pluralistic America

“A press independent of the conversation of culture, or existing in the absence of such a conversation, is likely to be . . . a menace to public life and an effective politics.” — James W. Carey

WBEZ’s president, Torey Malatia composed a provocative op-ed (11.9.12) at Current.org pronouncing public media’s obligation to revitalize open, civic discourse in our communities. Read more below:

When the Radio Research Consortium releases its periodic eRANKS, public radio programmers in communities all over the country examine them as report cards on their stations’ audience service. This is the big score of their performance relative to other markets.

But the true measure of effectiveness of our public media institutions is not found in an infograph derived from Arbitron ratings. As sociologist Michael Schudson reminds us, our effectiveness is best reflected in our contributions to facilitating an inclusive public discourse in our communities.

In a pluralistic America, public media is a central resource for promoting inclusiveness in civic engagement. This misson-based role has become even more important in today’s broadcast and digital media environment, in which content is tailored exclusively to audiences based on their ideology and beliefs.

Evidence of the divisiveness of civic dialogue in the media pounded on WBEZ’s door last month. I hope this account of the decision we made, and the philosophies behind it, will benefit our public media colleagues. Whenever a public radio station removes a regularly scheduled program from its lineup, the staff can expect to hear from listeners upset by the decision.

Such was the case at WBEZ when we chose not to renew our annual purchase of Smiley & West, a weekly news program from Public Radio International. A major factor in our decision was a significant, steady decline in audience for the one-hour broadcast. Over 18 months the program’s cumulative audience declined by two-thirds, while the programs surrounding it remained stable.

But there was another overarching concern that influenced our evaluation of Smiley & West. A couple of years ago, the show was reframed from public radio’s typical open-dialogue approach — in this case, on topical social and political issues — to a framework of what I consider advocacy journalism.

I am among those who believe that complete objectivity in journalism and public affairs is humanly impossible, but I reject the notion that public media should veer into advocacy. Granted, in some cases journalists who reveal their personal views often seed or reframe the public’s discussion in a new way. As long as the journalist’s contribution supports the public dialogue that allows the community to reach an evolved outcome, he or she plays a role in facilitating the democratic process.

But advocacy journalism elevates the voice of one citizen — that of the journalist — and frames the discussion with the intent of persuading the community to agree with the journalist’s desired outcome, whether it has real value or not.

To me, “advocacy journalism” is an unhappy meeting of two words, the second word dragged along by the first to get a better table. In the case of this particular program, the mismatched couple favored fare on the left side of the political menu.

We did approach PRI about the program’s eroding audience in Chicago and our concerns that the declines were linked to the editorial shift of Smiley & West. In our view, any news or commentary program should reflect public media’s signature for open and fair dialogue of competing ideas. A program that concentrates on issues in a singular way — rejecting ideas or opinions to the contrary — doesn’t fit with our standards. Smiley & West was moving in this direction, examining issues in the public dialogue within an increasingly closed universe of agreement.

Our recommendation that producers evaluate whether the program was dogmatic in ways that turned off the audience was distorted, and producers mounted a write-in campaign accusing me of censoring views “in the interest of balance.”

This accusation was wholeheartedly embraced by the outraged, some of whom proposed that we change our standards for balance. Others wrote that a left-leaning program such as Smiley & West represents the heart of the editorial mission of public media. These writers believe that public radio should promote leftist ideology to “balance” the public’s indoctrination by right-leaning corporate-controlled media.

One listener suggested that we balance Smiley & West by adding “some equally vociferous right-wing program.” By broadcasting them back-to-back, each could refute any lies or truths promoted by the other. The logic of these proposals eluded us. Those who wrote to us seemed to be arguing that we should shoot journalism in the chest to balance those who had been shooting it in the back.

Balance is a subjective value and an impractical metric. An editor who employs it as a measurement of news reporting would be as frustrated as a chef describing the flavor of air. You can’t calculate communication and argument in their nuance with algebraic precision.

We have become so accustomed to being “informed” by partisanship packaged in journalistic attire that we expect little more. We are so conditioned to being attentive to ideologically obsessed commentators, analysts and “experts” consuming massive volumes of oxygen on American broadcast media, cable channels and online that we’ve forgotten that these familiar personalities represent only a handful of the citizen voices that should be heard in daily discourse. We have unknowingly licensed these few use of our rightful function in democracy.

Citizens in our republic were intended to be actors, not just responders; they should never be content to be consumers of ideas; they have the authority and responsibility to be authors of them.

The hard work of public media journalism for the next few years is to counteract the partisanship of news media and reverse public passivity by refocusing journalism on civic discourse.

To restore meaningful journalism that amplifies and supports the public agenda and democracy, we must better understand how to connect with our communities and how a community functions. Too frequently, our editorial planning is driven by our journalists’ personal interests and the content of competing news companies. This must change. In editorial meetings, the agenda we set for coverage should directly relate to the issues that citizens have identified as important to them. And we can do this only by opening up multiple avenues for connecting with the community — in person, online and on-air. We can use our professional editorial judgment to broaden the public debate by encouraging more and different voices to speak up. By doing so, we support universal involvement among citizens.

In the process, it is always important to stay humble. After all, journalism is the many speaking for themselves.


Journalists and their employers tend to embrace concepts of their profession that have been perpetuated by Hollywood. As with most things portrayed in the movies, the realities of journalism today are not so picture-perfect. Tides of technological change have fragmented news audiences, cut short careers of talented reporters and raised alarms that the profession is on the verge of extinction. Yet the myths popularized by Hollywood live on.

Take, for example, the false construct underlying all the others — that the journalist serves as democracy’s savior. It’s no coincidence that Superman’s day job was newspaperman.

This myth posits that the objective of journalism is not to support the public’s agenda but to set the agenda for public discourse. In other words, to champion ideas, to lead the masses to truth.

There are certainly journalists who have served the public interest heroically by bringing previously obscured facts into the civic conversation. The central tenets of journalism are integral to earning public credibility — verification of facts and comprehensive research about historical, social and political contexts. Most importantly, journalists must have extraordinary capabilities to use the tools of communication to effectively represent ideas, actions and issues.

But journalism’s goal and responsibility is not one of leadership, but of service — to follow and help support public conversation. Practitioners and theorists from Edward R. Murrow to Jay Rosen have made the same observations: In a democracy, journalists take direction from citizens.

In this public-centered conception of journalism, the profession is dominated not by telling, but by listening. In the process of observing the public discourse, journalists make professional judgments about the patterns of current discussion and what appears to have salience in the democracy at that moment. Then their task is to support the ongoing public discourse, serving the needs of the conversation — verifying and helping to interpret the facts that are essential to a shared understanding of the matter discussed.

Journalists should not abduct the discourse. On the contrary, they should devote themselves to supporting an environment of inclusiveness that provides an open stage for differences — making way for the participation of even the most taciturn citizens.


In refocusing journalism on supporting public discourse, there is no better place to start than the concept of “conversational democracy” described in the work of the late political scientist Iris Marion Young. Professor Young, who taught at the University of Chicago, is probably best known for her research on feminist policy issues. Her work in that area led her to look at deliberative democratic theories and how they worked in the increased polyculturalism of a changing America.

Young noticed that in any multicultural and multieconomic community of individuals, those citizens who have authority, civic status or facility with argument have an advantage in civic discourse. Thus, even in a setting of community problem-solving, those whose opinions differ significantly from those who dominate the discussion, or whose life experiences are unfamiliar to the majority, are effectively excluded. Those in the minority hold back — or are held back — because the demand for agreement implies simplifying considerations, not complicating deliberating.

For civic discourse in a pluralistic society to be successful, resolution must be delayed until universal participation — inclusiveness — is all but total. This may prolong discourse, but it provides an atmosphere in which communication is embraced as a true right. Equal respect is given to all participants; all are allowed to talk; all are required to listen.

Inclusiveness creates the environment in which difference is seen a resource for richer debate and better solutions because they have been crafted to serve more of the community. To Young, only “by hearing from differently situated knowledge” can civic discourse add “to the knowledge of all participants.”

This is why public media journalism will forfeit its greatest promise if it turns to advocacy journalism, or to fighting perceived ideological fire with opposing ideological fire.

Inclusiveness in journalism brings forward the notion that difference is an asset to decision-making. And it demonstrates inclusiveness by being a place where every person served feels that journalists seek to sincerely represent the lens through which she or he views human experience.


At WBEZ, these concepts of journalism have reshaped our identity and how we must strive to serve the public. The ethos behind all the journalism we provide can be distilled to this: Our community identifies its news agenda; we commit to serving it. As a local public media institution, our responsibility extends to all in our region.

The FCC’s atypically lucid mandate demands this posture from public media institutions, whether or not we have newsrooms: “Broadcasting stations are licensed to serve the public and not for the purpose of furthering the private or selfish interests of individuals or groups of individuals. . . . The entire listening public [italics in original] within the service area of a station, or group of stations in one community, is entitled to service from that station or stations.”

Guidance on how well we meet these our principles is continually drawn from our staff, board and advisory council, but the community itself determines the specifics of our work through interactive media, community meetings in our neighborhood bureaus, our media literacy training programs — in short, direct, broad, incessant communication. While we’ve designed these principles to facilitate the evolving conversation in our community, these fundamentals can be shaped to serve any community-based public media institution.

Public media journalists should be among democracy’s insatiable seekers of inclusiveness, bringing into the civic conversation differences that richly complicate the argument. Our job is to find as many voices as we can of those who might disagree, who differ in their life experiences, circumstances, race, ethnicity, beliefs, economic circumstances and social values.

The conversation must invite, make welcome, attend to and be transformed by the community’s many, not a few. In this way, citizens work through their differences to make their own reality in a democracy. Journalists help them listen to each other, and help all be listened to.


As chief executive of Chicago Public Media since 1996, Torey Malatia led the expansion of local news programming on WBEZ and spearheaded development of Vocalo, a hybrid FM/digital media service. He has lectured extensively about public media’s role as a public trust, and serves on the boards of the Public Radio Exchange and the Station Resource Group.

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