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The case for higher education

Without a doubt, we’re living in as tumultuous a time as we have seen in our history. Every day, we face anxiety, fear, uncertainty, and frustration — even anger. At the same time, we contemplate and deal with the major economic fallout of COVID-19 and worry about our future. One thing that is reassuring is that we are a resilient nation. As Americans we always rise to these challenges. We support each other. We do the impossible. We will answer this call and build a better future. It’s what we do.

As president of Lock Haven University, with great pride, I’ve seen the strength of spirit, grit, and determination shown by our own students, staff, and faculty to complete the spring semester online under these incredibly difficult circumstances. As we look ahead, there are natural questions and concerns about what’s next for higher education and the role of colleges and universities whose finances, like all sectors and industries, have been put on their backside. We will need, in many ways, to reinvent ourselves, to respond and adapt — as many sectors will. But, we will need to be supported and invested in as a critical part of our nation’s recovery and rebuilding efforts. It is clear to me that higher education will play a pivotal role in the revival of our economy, and in the preparedness of our citizens to participate and be successful in this very changed world.

The case for earning a degree is clear. Affordable, career-relevant degrees will be more important now more than ever before in the history of this country. The value of academic credentials — all kinds — as well as reskilling and upskilling for adult learners with certificates and training will be a key for success in the post-pandemic job market. Those markets will continue to evolve and develop to meet new and ongoing demands in health care, education, technology, public safety, research and more. Higher education is about more than career readiness; the creation and advancement of knowledge are also critical components of our mission. The critical thinking, communications, leadership, and problem solving skills that are the hallmark of a quality liberal arts education will help us figure out how to make the best-informed decisions to lead us to recovery and sustainability and address future crises.

To current and prospective students I say, lean in — don’t wait to pursue a degree. Now is not the time to push the pause button on your future. Now is the time to arm yourself with the tools for a successful career in evolving and high demand fields in an even more competitive environment. Move forward toward fulfilling your educational goals. We need an educated workforce to help us rise from this crisis — to renew, rebuild and reconnect. We need you — our current and future students — to be the innovators, the problem solvers, and the creators that will lead us out of this crisis and into a new and better future.

At LHU — now in our 150th year of distinguished service — we are here to help meet those goals with quality and affordable academic programs. Our undergraduate and graduate majors, certifications, quality faculty, as well as robust financial aid packages and merit and need-based aid offerings combine to create educational pathways to help our students be part of the next wave of economic opportunity and drive the economic engine that will contribute to providing employers the skilled workforce they need and lift up our graduates and their families.

We are prepared to support our students and community, to continue to help transform lives during these trying times and help our students soar higher to a brighter future. That’s our mission.

I know that together we will persevere and overcome COVID-19 and its impact. I want to personally invite you to become part of The Haven family and earn your education close to home, in a small, personal, and safe environment, where your future success is our number one goal.

Dr. Robert Pignatello is president of Lock Haven University.

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