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Straight talk: Is college worth the expense?

For example, the average student debt of a K-State graduate is $27,198, which is equivalent to the cost of a new Ford Taurus. The car will last about 10 years, but the college degree will bring benefits for a lifetime. A college education prepares people not just for their first job, but for their fourth and fifth job as well. Attending college teaches students how to think, not what to think. While they do receive training in their specified fields, the most important skills they gain are critical thinking, problem solving, relationship building, how to present themselves professionally, and how to intelligently and thoughtfully discuss issues with people of varying opinions and backgrounds. As technology and jobs change and evolve, these skills make a person marketable for their entire life.

Kansas State University has been recognized as providing the best return on investment in the state of Kansas. For the fourth year in row, the national study SmartAsset found K-State is the best education value in Kansas. The study measures tuition, living costs, average scholarships and grants, starting salary upon graduation and retention rates of 10 Kansas schools to determine the state’s best value schools. SmartAsset is a financial data and technology company. 

How philanthropy supports education affordability

Scholarships and other forms of student support provided by generous donors help make a college education more affordable for many K-State students and their families. They also provide opportunities for enhanced learning experiences in and out of the classroom.

  • In FY18, $37 million in private scholarship and student success funds were donated to K-State students through the KSU Foundation.
  • 59 percent of K-State students receive scholarships.
  • In the last seven years, the KSU Foundation has more than doubled the private dollars in scholarship and other student support made available to the university.
  • 170 new scholarships were created by generous donors in FY18.
  • $254M of K-State’s endowment pool is designated for scholarships and student support. That’s just over 50 percent of K-State’s total endowment pool, valued at more than $500 million as of FY18.

“Students in the College of Architecture, Planning and Design learn and develop a tremendous work ethic and graduate with a set of skills that can be applied in any number of professions. It was my education at K-State that gave me the base to build my professional career, and it was my experience at K-State that taught me the importance of community.” – Kurt Thompson ’01 graduate in architecture

Value of higher education is undeniable

  • By 2020, more than two-thirds of all jobs in Kansas will require education beyond high school.
  • K-State returns $12 to the state for every $1 invested.
  • Unemployment rate for individuals with a bachelor’s degree is 2.5 percent, while it is 4.6 percent for those with a high school diploma.
  • On average, people with a bachelor’s degree earn $461 more per week than those with a high school diploma.
  • College graduates contribute 91 percent more in taxes per year than high school graduates.
  • Lifetime earnings are as high as $1 million more for college and advanced degree holders.
  • College graduates require less public assistance and donate more to charities.
  • Average annual retirement income is more than 4 times higher for college graduates than high school graduates.
  • College graduates are typically healthier, live longer and are more involved in their communities.
  • Higher education develops leaders and entrepreneurs who create jobs and support communities.
  • Nearly 9 of every 10 adults lifted above the poverty line through government programs (12.2 million adults) are people lacking a college degree.

Sources: National Association of College and University Business Officers (, Lumina Foundation (, Kansas Board of Regents (

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Sheila Walker Associate Vice President of Development


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Ian Peters Development Officer - Arts and Sciences