Matt Wilson

Matt Wilson

President, Missouri

Western State University

Missouri Western State University is a special place where students can learn, grow and acquire the tools necessary to succeed. As its new leader, now is a perfect time to talk about the university’s impact and the value of a four-year college degree.

Personally, I was drawn to Missouri Western because of its unwavering commitment to student success, accessibility, affordability, quality teaching and hands-on training opportunities, all of which contribute to workforce development. Working together, we can build upon our solid foundation to reach new heights and capitalize on endless possibilities.

The facts are indisputable. College pays off. Acquiring a bachelor’s degree leads to a healthier, more engaged and employable citizen. A typical four-year college graduate earns nearly $1 million more than a high school graduate over a career. That graduate is less likely to be unemployed, more likely to vote and volunteer in the community, and lives seven years longer on average. Of course, there are those for whom college is not the right path. There will always be exceptions to the rule, or professions that don’t require a college degree. However, these exceptions are becoming fewer and fewer as our economy becomes ever more complex and knowledge-based. With advances in technology and shifts in our global economy, workforce needs will evolve and careers will transform. A degree at Missouri Western can help community members prepare for these changes as they acquire important knowledge and vital skills involving research, writing, critical analysis, communication, entrepreneurship and leadership.

To this end, we can do more to support and promote higher education degree attainment. Analysts estimate that by 2020, 66 percent of working-age adults in Missouri will need a postsecondary degree or certificate to meet the workforce needs of Missouri’s employers.

We appreciate recent efforts by our lawmakers and Gov. Mike Parson to increase state funding for Missouri Western and higher education in general. However, even more needs to be done. At present, Missouri ranks in the bottom five states for higher education funding per capita.

A healthy university can pump millions of critical dollars into the local economy each year while attracting talent to the area and strengthening the local workforce. A university cannot thrive, however, without the community’s unequivocal support. Everyone must band together and find ways to support Missouri Western and its students, particularly when public assistance for higher education has dropped considerably over the past decade. I invite you to re-engage with Missouri Western as we look to educate, innovate, inspire and empower. We collectively need to find ways to raise bachelor’s degree attainment levels, create opportunity and drive economic development through education.

Progress is possible, but it will require creativity, commitment, resources and even stronger partnerships with our schools, industry, the state and local stakeholders. The payoff will be a brighter, more prosperous future for families, the surrounding community and the state of Missouri.

Matthew Wilson is the fifth president

of Missouri Western State University.