success noun suc•cess \sek-‘ses\ e
- obsolete : OUTCOME, RESULT
- a : degree or measure of succeeding b : favorable or desired outcome; also: the attainment of wealth, favor, or eminence
- one that succeeds
Even Merriam-Webster struggles to settle the question definitively.
Although there’s no straight-line cause and effect, college provides a reliable springboard to success, according to data, demographics and tradition.
Consider recent research by the Economic Policy Institute. EPI confirmed that college grads in 2015 averaged incomes 56 percent higher than those of high school graduates. That figure was a whopping 51 percent higher than in 1999.
With that kind of yawning disparity — and the college cost curve bending ever upward — parents hold colleges and universities accountable for engineering their kids’ future success.
Families expect upwardly mobile outcomes commensurate with the thousands they invest in college educations. Moms and dads now pore over myriad post-graduate metrics to gauge whether colleges measure up.
“The ultimate metric of an institution’s success,” notes the Gallup-Purdue Index, which measures college and university outcomes, “is whether its alumni succeed in work and life.”
There’s that word, again.
Success. Beacon’s outcomes certainly qualify — 70 percent of Beacon students graduate in four years (more than double the national average for all college students) and more than 80 percent pursue post-graduate studies or find worthy work.
Yet, what constitutes alumni success?
Is it earning buckets of cash? Cachet? Fame?
Or is it something that cannot be cubbyholed — something that must be defined individually?
At Beacon College — the first college accredited to award bachelor’s degrees to students with learning disabilities, ADHD, and other learning differences — we equip our students with tools that prepare them to compete on an equal playing field in the global marketplace.
Considering that our often-marginalized students have grown weary of society wrongly defining their capabilities, we’d rather not define what their “success” should look like.
We expect our students to live the “life abundant,” trying as Albert Einstein said, “not to become [people] of success, but rather try to become[people] of value.”
We understand, too, that we must deliver on the same parental expectations as any college. We know that parental expectations clash with the managed expectations that society often slings like a knapsack full of boulders on the backs of students who learn differently. Parents yearn for the children they so long have worried about to find resounding success beyond their nurturing, protective arms.
Of course, even with college, success — in whatever form that may take — is, as tennis legend Arthur Ashe observed, “a journey, not a destination.”