The Sept. 14 commentary on the University of Minnesota by Robert Katz ("Welcome, freshmen! And now the bad news") stated that, "For many of our incoming freshmen, attending the U will be a losing proposition.

Forty percent of them will not graduate within six years -- and most of these will never get a diploma. Their investment with the U will be a dead loss." So the paper credential is all that matters, and what happens in the classroom is utterly inconsequential?

When I was having trouble choosing a major, my parents urged me to stay with it. "No education is ever wasted. You'll figure it out eventually." I did complete three degrees, one of which (a master's degree in statistics) I used professionally for only about 10 minutes.

But I do use that knowledge almost daily, in understanding studies, comparing percentages, and reading the newspaper and brokerage reports. My undergraduate degree in political science seemed the height of impracticality at times, but it gave me the fundamentals of reasoning, logic and analysis, and I use those skills every hour of every day.

To do well on tests, we had to think clearly, synthesize, draw conclusions, and explain our results in coherent prose. Those skills are essential to any professional role. Having to leave school before completing one's dream can seem like a huge loss, but it's not a complete loss.

For those who have done the work, they will walk away with an improved mind and added knowledge -- maybe just what it takes to start a business. Let's not throw in the towel for these students, but rather urge our community to get back to appreciating the fundamentals: learning -- and learning how to learn.

Without that, any paper credential is pretty hollow.