A couple of years ago, I was the proud owner of some orphaned reward points on a credit card I rarely used. I wanted to cash them in for the espresso machine but came up short by a few million purchases. For that matter, I came up short for most everything except the offer on magazine subscriptions.
In an effort to make the most of my languishing points, I decided I would order subscriptions on a wide variety of topics, including health, economics, current events and world travel. I had once read somewhere if you read at least 10 books on a single topic you are considered an expert. These subscriptions seemed to be a gateway to a world of expertise on many topics. I spent all my points, canceled the credit card and waited for the digital or glossy print magazines to arrive.
They arrived, and arrived and arrived. I stacked, filed and stacked. I knew there would be a long weekend or an evening curled up on the couch somewhere in my future in which I could catch up on the Middle East, cooking healthy meals and the latest on technology in education.
The only thing that came faster and with more intention than the magazines themselves were the renewal notices. My points had not provided me with more than 3 to 12 month access to this new world so as soon as the publications arrived so did the onslaught of reminders to renew.
Each request reminded me of what I would be missing, and as the time for expiration grew closer the pleas grew more intense. “Don’t be left behind”, “Don’t be out of touch,“. The best is yet to come”, and “FINAL NOTICE” greeted me on a daily basis.
A couple of the magazines that enhanced my desire to be a lifelong learner have remained on my list and in my mailbox and inbox while others I let fall away. There was no way I could afford to keep up all the subscriptions and they did not all suit my needs or interest. But it was nice to know that I could renew something I had started. I had many options at my disposal.
Over the last several years, the Southwest Florida Community Foundation has been collaborating with a group of regional partners, the FutureMakers Coalition, around increasing the number of our residents who have college degrees or other industry recognized credentials. This work benefits the individuals who live here but also contribute to a healthy vibrant region.
One of the biggest roadblocks to completions of degrees or certifications is persistence – the person’s ability to stick with the programs. We are used to the concept of school or training programs having a beginning, middle and end and if we get off track our instinct is to think we somehow blew it.
Much like my credit card points, we start on an educational journey with some kind of one-time offer. A one year scholarship, an 18-month program that runs consecutively, coursework that is offered once every two years. We get off to a great start with fantastic intentions but then find ourselves without the resources to continue.
Maybe our work schedule changed, financial aid ran out, the scholarship didn’t continue, our families needed us at home, or we were not ready for life away at college.
Most of the renewal notices we receive when this happens come in the form of tuition bills or the risk of being dropped from a program.
What if we began to view our education as a subscription that was up for renewal? What if each year we evaluated which options best suited where we were headed? Could we add a certification, consider an internship, start a graduate degree or take an online course that would enhance our career path? As employers, could we help our teams evaluate how they can enhance their skill sets and connect them with resources that make that possible? There seem to be as many options as magazine subscriptions.
At the Foundation, we are working closely with donors designing scholarships. Rather than focusing on one-size-fits-all scholarships for high school seniors, the options are endless. Flexible plans that allow students to move from certifications to two-year and on to four-year institutions, financial assistance for adult and returning students, career enhancement and laddering credentials and most importantly scholarships that allow the students to renew rather than a one-time award. These are subscriptions that are worth our investments.
Would you like to lend your support to the FutureMakers Coalition? If so, please contact me at [email protected].
photo image from wxxinews.org