By Bill Knief
These days there is a discussion going on as to just how valuable a diploma, degree or certificate is in the real world. Once you graduate, will there be a job waiting for you? Can you afford the cost of higher education? Do you really have time to devote to furthering your education after the demands of work, family and other life responsibilities have been addressed? Are you really cut out for higher education, or is that for others—not you?
A few years ago UNM-Taos Executive Director Dr. Kate O’Neill proposed an answer to all those questions in one simple sentence:
“Education is the great equalizer.”
I think what she meant is that education can create a level playing field regardless of one’s income, lack of opportunities, geographic location, ethnicity, gender, or station in life.
Educated individuals are in charge of their own destiny. They have choices, whether those choices involve carefully thought-out career decisions, the pursuit of a particular lifestyle, tackling the tough challenges of the STEHM fields—science, technology, engineering, healthcare and math—or simply the desire someday to be able to support aging parents, raise a family, or pursue an interest or hobby for personal enrichment.
Starting with that high school or GED diploma, education can put you into a higher income bracket. But equally important, it says to all the world that you completed what you set out to do, whether that’s obtaining your PhD degree in science or your CDL license to operate heavy equipment. And that pride and sense of accomplishment can never be taken away from you.
Diplomas, college degrees, certificates and licensures are the tools society uses to open the doors to a larger world. They take sacrifice, patience and determination to achieve, but they are within the reach of anyone, and they can last a lifetime.
In contrast, giving up on education at any time in your life is, in a sense, giving up on yourself.
As the only institution of higher education within a 50 mile radius, UNM-Taos is dedicated to providing quality, affordable education to all who seek it, and now over 3,000 students a year respond to that invitation. The result is that last February your community college was named the 17th fastest growing community college of its size in the nation, out of a cohort of over 350 institutions.
This remarkable accomplishment could not have been achieved without the excellent faculty, staff and growing facilities of UNM-Taos. But it is the citizens of northern New Mexico—the students, families, neighbors and supporters of higher education—that deserve the real credit. They are the ones setting high standards for themselves and for higher education in the rural, remote, disadvantaged area we call home.
Perhaps this is the year that you, too, will be heading back to school in the fall. The UNM-Taos semester starts August 18, and we hope to see you then. But regardless of where you go or what institution you attend, know that the path of education you are traveling on is the adventure of a lifetime. Work at it. Enjoy it. And have a great year.