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Majority of Rutgers alumni believe U. experience was worth tuition cost

Half of college alumni in the United States do not believe their education was worth the high price tag, according to a report released by Gallup and Purdue University that surveyed 30,000 U.S. college graduates. But these figures do not translate to Rutgers, where around 80 percent of alumni don the colors of their alma mater proudly.

Based on the survey, the report cited rising tuition as a cause for the decline in cost-worth assumption. According to the Consumer Protection Financial Bureau, the cumulative student loan debt has increased to up to $1.2 trillion dollars. 

Despite this, Rutgers alumni fully stand by their decision to attend college.

Timothy Farrow, a 1999 Rutgers School of Law graduate, said he believes that Rutgers has played a huge role in his success as a criminal lawyer. 

“Rutgers Law School was absolutely worth attending financially,” Farrow, chair of the Board of the Rutgers University Alumni Association, said in an email. “The value of the education I received cannot be overemphasized.”

Still, Farrow had to take out student loans for the entire three years of his time at Rutgers. 

Dalal Nesheiwat, associate director of Drug Development at Kyowa Hakko Kirin Pharma, Inc, graduated from the Ernest Mario School of Pharmacy in 2008.

Coming to Rutgers was worth it, said Nesheiwat, who got through pharmacy school with loans and financial aid.

Peter March, executive dean of the School of Arts and Sciences, took into account the percentage of alumni who did not believe college to be a worthwhile investment.

“The satisfaction or value you derive from your college experience is proportional to what you put into it,” March said.

March believes educating students to be useful participants of the economy is not the most important objective of undergraduate education, but a significant result of it.

Studies show that the value a student gives his education depends on whether or not he has a personal attachment to the college, either through clubs, mentors or faculty members.

“Pro bono and internship opportunities at Rutgers led me directly to my career path”, said Farrow, who became interested in becoming a prosecutor after participating in a Domestic Violence Pro Bono project.

He was also president of his graduating class. 

At Rutgers, Nesheiwat participated in the New Jersey Educational Opportunity Fund program (EOF), which “provides financial assistance and support services to students from educationally and economically disadvantaged backgrounds who attend institutions of higher education in the State of New Jersey”.

Both Farrow and Nesheiwat were actively involved in multiple activities while at Rutgers.

“I made sure that I was well-rounded,” Nesheiwat said.

There are several resources students can utilize while at Rutgers for a successful future ahead.

“The very best any student can do is connect with University Career Services,” March said. “Go to Career Services on the first day of your sophomore year.”

March was surprised that most of the students either go too late or do not utilize the opportunities available to them.

Whenever he speaks with Career Services and Study Abroad programs, they often ask March for help with driving student traffic toward their programs.

“The thing we are not doing as well as we could is to get the message across to students to take advantage of resources,” March said.

The U.S. Government Accountability Office reported that public investment in higher education has dropped by 12 percent over the last decade. Twenty-five years ago, two-thirds of the cost of education was borne by the state and one-third by the student. But, today, it is the other way round.

“Inflation is picking up by a couple of percent each year, which is why the tuition is going up. Roughly speaking, the tuition cuts the inflation costs,” March said.

March acknowledges that the University “has the responsibility to increase the value of education for students.”

But for current students, getting involved with extracurricular activities play an important role in making a Rutgers degree worthwhile.

“Focus on school, but remember that grades are not everything,” Nesheiwat said. “Branch out. A one-dimensional personality will not help you. Different experiences make you more valuable.”

Farrow's number one advice for students is to get involved in alumni association activities. He has been able to build a successful criminal defense practice by building attorney networks of Rutgers alumni throughout New Jersey.

"Take full advantage of the vast network of Rutgers alumni across the country,” Farrow said. “The Rutgers family starts and ends with the Rutgers name. No matter where you were or what you studied, that connection always exists," Farrow said.

March noted that there are around 450,000 living Rutgers alumni, which means that there are around 10 alumni per student.

“You are part of a remarkable network,” March said. “We don't mediate the connection. One of my top priorities is to bring alumni back and do good old-fashioned networking.”

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