- Written by Bob Rodgers
Why advancing your education isn’t just about traditional ROI
People change jobs and shift career paths more today than ever before. From my vantage point as a university president, I see this continuing to trend upward, and though it opens exciting new doors, I’m concerned that people take these steps wisely.
There are many good reasons people redirect their livelihoods: the shifting job market, major life changes, feeling stuck in a treadmill existence and stretching to reach their full potential. Some chart a new course because they hear God’s voice calling them to follow His will for their lives.
Whatever the reason, the decision to embark on a new journey is a bold and courageous move that takes discernment and wisdom. Often the first step in a new direction leads people to investigate and consider the benefits of graduate school. Students of higher learning know the long-term benefits, but the hot debate about the return on investment (ROI) of graduate school in mainstream media today can often skew the picture. As traditional ROI logic goes, one should simply calculate whether the value invested (time and money) is commensurate with the long-term return, extended earnings and fulfillment. While this is certainly an important variable to consider, a decision of this magnitude should not rely solely on a monetary calculation.
I propose a more comprehensive, wisdom-based formula that involves four key elements. It goes beyond the traditional money-in, money-out thinking and equally factors in the Spirit’s discernment, unique skills and support you need to answer God’s call for your life.
Do you really need to go to graduate school? If a degree of higher learning is necessary for you to have critical knowledge and skills, then the next decision is where to go. Consider prayerfully who you are, how you learn and what institution best fits your circumstance personally and financially. Then dive deeper into calling, formation and stewardship.
What are you called to do? What is the Holy Spirit’s inner prompting saying to you about what you should lean into as a new career? Frederick Buechner said, “The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” Is there a deep gladness that arises in you when you think about your new adventure, or is it simply an idea rooted in monetary gain or relief from a bad situation? This is an important distinction. Seek the counsel of friends, family and spiritual mentors so you can make a sound decision. If the discernment does lead you to a career that requires graduate studies, the second consideration is formation.
Educationally, does the university you’re considering encourage and enable you to grow holistically and in faith? Look carefully into this and ask lots of questions. Don’t be shy. Take time to ensure that your education will not only enable you with the knowledge and skills you need to succeed, but also will help grow and form you into the whole person you want and need to be.
This means responsible planning and management of your time, energy and resources as you prepare for the very different rhythm of graduate work. Don’t take on more than you can handle, because you want to reach the end of your journey healthy, happy and thriving—not broken, weary and laden with worry and debt.
In the end, all of these factors must work together to generate a formula for success. Think of graduate school as a trip requiring a plan and itinerary. You can take this trip at your own pace, in your own time and set your own personal goals. Everyone’s definition of success is different, so you determine what your own personal ROI needs to be. A wisdom-based ROI is as much about the kingdom as it is about you.
If you put the time in to grasp your God-given calling and find an educational community that believes in the whole you and utilizes good stewardship of your resources, your investment will reap far more than money. It will be a harvest of life for the kingdom.
Bob Rodgers is the president of Richmont Graduate University in Atlanta.