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An intellectual investment

Concordia’s tuition for the 2010-11 academic year is $26,950. Just a few blocks away, Minnesota State University-Moorhead’s tuition for 2010-11 is $6,140. Looking around at the bustling, active campus, it’s easy to see that something still draws students to Concordia. In fact, most seniors at Concordia are satisfied with their education here, despite the extra cost for a liberal arts education.

Elaine Ackerman, director of academic assessment, said that each year the senior class takes a questionnaire, titled the National Survey of Student Engagement. According to Concordia’s 2010 NSSE, 86 percent of seniors would choose this school again if they could start their college career over.

Senior Aj Swenson, a public relations major, agrees.

“Concordia has always been home for me,” she said. Although Swenson has about $50,000 in debt waiting for her at the end of this year, she still feels it was worth it.

What made the difference was the friends she made and the connections and opportunities she’s had as a Cobber. Also, she said her study abroad trip to Australia is what best prepared her for the future, and she may not have had that opportunity at other colleges.

According to Jane Williams, director of financial aid, the average amount of debt that 2010 graduates were left with was $32,533. This was including need based, non-need based, subsidized, non-subsidized, as well as private loans.

Sam Kjellberg, a senior and music theory and composition major, compared his Concordia education to buying a designer suit.

“There comes a point where it costs too much,” he said. “But if you’re going to get 10 to 15 years out of a suit, you’re not going to buy it at a thrift store.”

He said that even though Concordia was an expensive choice, you get what you pay for, and that he’s satisfied with his decision to come here.

“This is not a financial investment,” Kjellberg said. “I think of this place as an intellectual investment.”

In addition, he appreciates the high expectations placed on him by professors and which he feels Concordia instills intrinsically. The professor that had the biggest impact on Kjellberg was Daniel Breedon, professor of music theory and composition, who never allowed his students to slide.

If there’s anything Kjellberg was not satisfied with at Concordia, it was the attitude that students seem to have that Concordia is somehow better than other schools.
“I think that students don’t realize that this is not the only school with intelligent people,” he said.

Aaron Goebel, a 2009 graduate and theatre art and political science major, was extremely satisfied with his Concordia education, and would “definitely go to Concordia if I was able to do it all over.”

He especially was inspired by his professors in theatre lighting design, specifically Bryan Duncan. What made him such a great teacher, Goebel said, was his many years of experience in theatre lighting, as well as his availability and willingness to talk outside of class.

“I confided in him about a lot of decisions I had to make in life,” Goebel said. “He helped me get through college.”

According to the 2010 NSSE, 96 percent of seniors at least occasionally talked to faculty members about career plans.

Goebel now works in the mutual funds department at RBC Wealth Management in Minneapolis. While his position does not make use of his two majors, Goebel said he was able to get the job because of his liberal arts education at Concordia.

“My professors taught me to keep an open mind because the job you fall in love with may be something you didn’t go to school for,” he said. “However, a liberal arts education will always help you in life, no matter what profession you have.”

Goebel said that Concordia left him with about $40,000 in debt. However, he has found that to be pretty average among private school graduates. Also, after working for a while, he has realized that education is always a good investment.

Dawn Duncan, a professor in the English department, believes that the liberal arts education Concordia provides makes it worth the cost, even without all the financial aid help that Concordia supplies for its students.

“Simply put, an education at Concordia College prepares a student for life, not just for a particular job,” Duncan said. “Students from Concordia enter the working world prepared for the changes life will bring, changes we cannot even anticipate right now but which we still must try to prepare you to face.”

Duncan has found the advisor/advisee relationship to be very important, as long as both the student and faculty member want to connect. She said that she has served as a reference for many of her past advisees, and still keeps in touch with many of them.

In the end, 89 percent of students surveyed in the 2010 NSSE said that they would recommend Concordia College to someone who wanted to pursue their major field of study.

While Goebel was satisfied with his education, he would not recommend Concordia for theatre lighting design students looking at schools today due to many of the adjunct professors in the department being let go. He said that lighting design can only be learned and taught well through years of experience, not simply a degree, and that Concordia’s decision to get rid of its adjunct professors could ruin the high reputation that Concordia’s theatre design program has had.

Kjellberg as well would not recommend Concordia for future students looking to study musicology, which is what he wants to have a career in. Concordia does not offer a musicology major, so instead, he had to major in theory and composition.
Swenson would recommend Concordia to any student, as long as what they were interested in was offered here.

“[Concordia’s] not for everybody, but for everybody who’s here it’s a pretty perfect fit,” she said.

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