Portrait of President Dr. Christine Sobek
Christine J. Sobek, Ed.D.

The holiday season is quickly approaching. Many people will soon be hosting and attending gatherings with family and friends. Food and gifts will be purchased and people will be looking for values as they make those purchases. Looking for value is a natural thing to do.

That is certainly true for large investments like education. A recent report from the American Association of Community Colleges shows that median earnings for people who have an associate degree is approximately $6,500 higher than people without any college. And, $16,500 higher than people without a high school diploma. With the affordable tuition at community colleges, a two-year degree can pay for itself in just one year of increased salary. People with a two-year degree then have that increased income for the rest of their lives. The lifetime accumulation of that higher salary certainly makes a community college education a financial value.

Financial value, though, is only part of the equation. Simon Sinek, a previous live broadcast speaker for the National Society for Leadership and Success Program at Waubonsee, has made the point that value is something people feel, not necessarily something that can be calculated. That is unquestionably true when it comes to education. We have found that people often return to college for the intrinsic value it offers; to make their family members proud, to finish what they started, to discover themselves, to build a better life and to prove to themselves that they can do it.

There was an article recently in the Aurora Beacon-News about a Waubonsee student who exemplifies this. Josh McAuley is a Waubonsee Chiefs Basketball Player who first began his academic journey here in 2013. Due to circumstances of life, he was unable to finish his degree at that time. He left college and went to work full-time, often working 80 hours a week. He said, “When you’re young and look at it, it’s nice to have that money coming in as a foundation. But it gets old really quick.” 

Photo of Josh McAuley
Josh McAuley

This realization led Josh back to the intrinsic value of education. About returning to college, Josh said, “My mom talked me into it. She wants to see me get a diploma. So that, and the fact that I missed the competition, brought me back.”

Josh was making money, but he wanted to do more than just make money. He wanted to honor his family and be part of the community that is his basketball team. Josh hopes to prove that he can play basketball at a four-year college or play overseas. I’m confident that he will be able to achieve his dreams.  

Over the next several weeks, many people will be looking for financial values as they shop for items for the holidays. As great and important as those financial values are, though, they often can not match the intrinsic value that comes from moments and experiences with people we care about. As we move into the season of thanksgiving, I am thankful for the opportunity we have at Waubonsee to help people realize both financial and intrinsic value.