My father was an officer in the military, serving in Vietnam and a wide range of places in the United States and abroad. At various points in my childhood I called Texas, California, Connecticut, Japan, Alabama, and North Dakota home. Different curricula, teaching styles, and cultures were at the core of my formative education. No matter where I was in the world, however, it was clear that an advanced education helped people reach their full potential.

Tuition costs are rising, but earning a college degree has never been more important. College provides students with opportunities to explore their career choices, obtain critical skills that can be applied to many facets of their lives, and become exposed to new situations and experiences. To be competitive on a global basis, we need to educate our students and provide them with tools they need to compete. For those students entering certain fields, college opens doors, allowing them to earn more over the course of their lifetime and achieve advancement. In today’s tough job market, a college degree will still provide a critical advantage. More importantly, a rich academic experience will help students prepare for life.

This country offers an incredible number of choices, including military academies, large state universities, and tiny liberal arts colleges. Students can choose to study in Manhattan or the heart of the Midwest. Although the choices can be staggering, they are exciting as well. College is also a time to learn rich life lessons. During college, I did an internship with the general counsel for the university, served as a summer fellow at Rutgers University, and spent a summer studying Spanish language and art in Madrid. These experiences were a valuable addition to the standard curriculum, and they were a lot of fun. The lessons you learn outside the classroom can help you hone skills, make important friendships, and learn about yourself and the world.

In today’s economy, a college education is more valuable than ever before. Beyond the degree itself, students with a strong educational foundation will be in a better position to compete for jobs and be successful in those positions over the course of their careers.

Most of us make important financial decisions throughout our adulthood. If we are fortunate, we buy homes, cars, stocks, and bonds. It may sound trite, but there are few investments that compare to investing in your own education.