Kevin G. Walthers: Two words of advice for high school seniors

Dr. Kevin Walthers

Over the last year, Allan Hancock College received two great reports about how our programs benefit students’ financial future.

The first was an independent economic impact study showing AHC graduates realize a $9,200 bump in earnings and an overall 19 percent rate of return for their education. And the second report revealed the price-to-earnings premium developed by Michael Itzkowitz at Third Way, a non-partisan think-tank. He calculated that a Hancock graduate will recover their educational investment in only 15 months.

Itzkowitz’s new measure calculates a student’s return on investment (ROI) by the program they completed. He finds that “nearly six out of 10 (58%) students who graduate with an associate’s degree are able to earn back the cost of obtaining a credential within just five years, higher than any other type of program.” For students in our community, that means the investment in a degree from Hancock offers a quick return and reverberates just as quickly throughout the community.

The programs that offer a high ROI nationally make up some of Hancock’s most popular programs: nursing and medical fields, industrial production and machining, electrical engineering technology, transportation, and criminal justice.

Our Public Safety Training Center in Lompoc is the core provider of police officers, correctional officers, firefighters and EMTs on the Central Coast, and our nursing program provides North County with nearly 50 registered nurses each year. Our innovative programs in machine technology, viticulture, and auto technology are placing students into real-word well-paying jobs.

More importantly, with an average price-to-earnings premium, our students are earning a valuable credential without racking up the huge debt loads that students from for-profit colleges incur. Hancock’s ability to provide state-of-the-art training, with the most modern equipment taught by faculty experts, only enhances the value of our programs.

We couldn’t do this work without the incredible support of our community. The voter-approved Measure I bond program is coming to a close, having transformed the college into the modern educational powerhouse you see today. The Public Safety Training Center — currently a national model for public safety academic programs — represents the college’s largest capital investment ever at $40 million.

On the Santa Maria campus, the $25 million invested in providing modern classrooms and labs for career education allowed the college to expand programs and increase opportunities for students seeking a certificate or associate degree. Even the new 80,000-square-foot Fine Arts Complex (opening in 2022) will provide career education and house our computer-aided design, animation, and digital photography programs that are essential for the success of our local businesses seeking to maintain a digital edge.

The program-level data showing strong ROI also provides healthy insight into programs that may not provide a substantial return for students. The data allows us to tailor our educational programs in order to ensure students completing certificates have pathways to additional education and training that will support them when the leave.

Of course, we also want students taking courses from AHC rather than predatory, for-profit colleges that will load them up with taxpayer-subsidized debt – dollars that end up in the pockets of shareholders, without any real benefit to the student or our local economy.

When it comes to ROI, there‘s no better investment on the Central Coast than Allan Hancock College. For every dollar of public money invested in AHC, the community sees a return of $1.30, a 3.3 percent annual rate of return.

When you and your neighbors pass a bond measure or provide funding to the Hancock Promise, you are helping college students complete their degree, adding more than half a billion dollars to the local economy, and supporting almost 6,500 regional jobs.

We are grateful to be part of this amazing community and commit to ensuring a return on your investment through a better-educated and professionally trained workforce.

Kevin G. Walthers, Ph.D., is the superintendent/president of Allan Hancock College. You can read more about the college’s local economic impact at Third Way’s ROI study can be found at