Yesterday was the May graduation ceremony at the University. The vibrant procession of staff and graduates moving down Queen St (Auckland's main street) is always a fun sight. It's a wonderful opportunity to meet friends and family members who have supported our graduates on their journey through their degrees. The day ends with the formal presentation of degrees on stage at the Aotea Centre. I was seated at the side of the stage and could see almost all the graduates "grow an inch taller" as they proudly walked across the stage to receive their degrees, to applause from the audience in a theatre that seats over 2,100 people.
For me graduation is chance to reflect on the difference we make in the life of our students. After all that is a big part of what "gets me out of bed" in the morning. However I know the process of getting a degree is not easy - so is it worth it?
Universities NZ researched the value of a degree in 2016. They found:
“A typical university graduate will earn around $1.6m more over their working life than a non-graduate. This is much higher for a medical doctor ($4m), professional engineers ($3m) and information technology graduates ($2m), but is still high for arts graduates – with an average earnings premium of around $1m to 1.3m (depending upon subject)."
Those numbers definitely imply the effort to get a degree in engineering will (on average) significantly improve the financial circumstances of our students over their lifetimes. Hopefully that thought can act as "light at the end of the tunnel" for students facing financial difficulties during their degrees. Students at the University of Auckland in financial distress should consult the resources here for information on hardship grants and the AUSA food bank.