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Opening a window, when the door goes shut

March 7, 2012

Opening a window, when the door goes shut

By Chris Albert

In today’s world, innovation, creativity and ideas are the venture capital of tomorrow, PLU President Loren J. Anderson told the assembled crowd of business leaders at the annual meeting of the Economic Development Board for Tacoma-Pierce County.

At the March 2 meeting, Anderson was the recipient of the first Golden Shovel Award for his, and PLU’s role, in making the South Puget Sound region a healthy community and vibrant economy. More than 10,000 PLU alumni make their home in the area. And more than 3,500 students enroll at PLU every year and the university employs 700 faculty and staff.

“I thank you for recognizing and holding up the essential and critical role of education in the context of economic development,” he said. “And, there is much to celebrate.”

But he expressed pause in celebrating. As the PLU president nears the end of his 20 years at the university, he expressed concern about the future of a “new knowledge-based economy.”

“High quality, accessible education is more and more crucial, and, yet our educational pipeline is leaking at every joint,” Anderson said.

He shared a frightening statistic, that only 18 of 100 eighth grade students in the United States will earn a bachelor’s degree within 10 years of being an 8th grader.

“Eighty-two students are being left along the sidelines,” Anderson said.

For the 18, the future does look bright, he said. Obtaining a bachelor’s degree correlates to doubling their earning potential, cutting in half the likelihood of unemployment, and even their life expectancy is greater than the 82 left behind.

For those that are left along the way, the opposite is true, Anderson said. He called on business leaders to not let this trend continue – to mentor students, to offer internships or donate equipment, to do whatever they can to invest in the future.

“Indeed, I think it is not too strong to claim that we are failing to educate a whole new generation of men and women for whom the great door of hope and opportunity – the hallmark of this great land – is being closed,” he said. “So if I have a dream today, it is that as a great caring community, we will renew our commitment to stop our losses, and we build a truly world class system of education at every level.

“Doing so will require a financial shift for sure – but in the long run, developing human capital is not an expense, it is an investment, in the future of our businesses and organizations, and as everyone in this room understands, our economy.”