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What is college for?
Another way to ask the question: by what measure should those connected with a college determine whether it is providing its students with a good experience?
Posted on September 21, 2006 | Permalink
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"by what measure should those connected with a college determine whether it is providing its students with a good experience?"
By the gross receipts of alumni donations?
September 21, 2006 at 08:39 PM
Wait...I thought US News & World Report did that for them. Anyway, who says college is just for the students? I guess you want a high and reliable throughput rate while making everybody happy and incurring no debt over the long term. But then there's no way to make everybody happy, so really you just look around to what the other schools are doing and do more or less the same. Glad I could be of help.
September 22, 2006 at 01:19 AM
By asking the students (and alumni, as they may appreciate the experience more looking back upon it).
September 22, 2006 at 09:10 AM
You are actually asking two separate questions. The first is simply the purpose of attending college (assuming your question is not including anything about the institution's role to the community). The second involves measuring some form of student satisfaction. The second is probably the harder question since satisfaction will/can change over time. A student may initially have a bad experience, due to difficult courses, lack of social life, but come to appreciate the experience after it has passed and the student realizes life goals. Another student may have a wonderful experience based on his/her social life, participation in clubs, and easy classes, but regret that experience when he/she realizes that the skills developed in constructing a beer bong or doing a keg stand are not transferrable to other areas of life.
September 22, 2006 at 09:21 AM
Why sure they are! Home repair might be easier for those already familiar with the workings of home depot, even if it was because they built a bar for the ante-room of the apartment or a beer pong table. The breath control of keg stands might be of benefit to other areas, too, like SCUBA. And learning patience and determination, when trying to complete a task while half-baked.
September 22, 2006 at 09:47 AM
By what measure should students answer the question, if we're asking them whether they're having a good experience? Do they know, at the time, or should we ask them after the fact? How many years after?
September 22, 2006 at 10:16 AM
College is for figuring out how to think for yourself. If they walk away with some knowledge, but didn't fight for it and decide to get it because THEY valued it, it will be a credential but not an education. Considering the reasons why most people go to college, this is a very tough job. I am also a big fan of having to take the kind of liberal arts breadth that one used to be required to take. A required curriculum that makes one take a little of everything is a great boon.
I can tell you that something that my college did correctly was inform all freshmen that nobody gets out of the room at orientation without signing up for three extracurricular activities (from a list of 150). They then told you that nobody could FORCE you to go to those activities, but that they really recommended that you go at least the first time or two to the meetings, games, or whatever. Very, very smart. College is not just about going to class, but about figuring out what you like to do with yourself in your spare time and making human connections. The majority of us ended up with at least one outside activity on campus we participated in and enjoyed - started out pushed, ended up figuring out what mattered and why. Welcome to life balance 101.
September 22, 2006 at 10:19 AM
Sorry, last post was question number one. Question number two is, naturally, lots harder. One might ask the following questions (I guess a pollster would hate these): Do you use and benefit from the education you got at IOU? Why or why not? If you could change one thing about your experience at IOU, what would it be? When you think back on old IOU, what do you think served you BEST about your experience there? And perhaps most tellingly: When you write that monthly check for your student loans, do you feel like your experience was worth it?
I think 5 years is safe as far as distance from the experience to start seeing how you can and will use what you gained in college. Purely a gut call.
September 22, 2006 at 10:27 AM
By how many alumni send their children there.. but of course, children don't often listen to their parents, especially at the age when they're about to start college... so this metric might fail. :D
September 22, 2006 at 11:42 AM
It's a little grandiose, I suppose,
but that "Offer of the College" quote on
Bowdoin's homepage gets it for me.
September 22, 2006 at 12:27 PM
I find that the difference between college educated people and not college educated people is whether they think critically. I guess college is for giving students the ability to question and analyze.
September 22, 2006 at 01:41 PM
"whether they think critically"
now that's just mean
September 22, 2006 at 03:57 PM
The way I see it, one goes to college for a good education. Any experience, good, bad or in-between, is only incidental and shouldn't be a concern of the faculty.
I'm a non-traditional student, so maybe my opinion is a bit skewed. But there it is.
September 22, 2006 at 07:21 PM
Let me only seem shallow and suggest that few people would go to college if most did not **perceive** that in some way, even if indirectly, it will enhance their lifetime monetary earning potential. If that perception were not widely accepted, colleges would whither and eventually disappear altogether. Sure, other considerations are present, but that is the linchpin that sustains the attraction of a college education.
(Addendum: If you went to college and don't believe this, then most likely your parents paid your way, and they at least believed it for you at the time they financed it.)
September 23, 2006 at 01:23 AM
Richard, by that definition, I think I might be an anomoly :)
When faced with a choice between Journalism, Science or Visual Arts I was the only member of my family concerned about the finacial viability of each career option. Ironically it was my parents who generously funded my first degree and urged me into the Visual Arts field, telling me not to worry about such pragmatic considerations. I should add that they are both university professors who firmly support the ideal of learning for it's own sake.
Although I'm a bit of an idealist that way myself, I must admit that now and then I do wonder about that choice.
September 23, 2006 at 01:44 AM
A college education should give students the curiosity to ask fundamentally unanswerable questions combined with the confidence to try and answer them. Such questions as, "What is college for?"
September 23, 2006 at 02:47 PM
I like many of the answers I'm seeing above.
I like the second question better than the first one; the first one is too open to answers indicating the expectations which have been placed on a college education, appropriately or not.
I would suggest as an answer to the second question something like this: To what extent has the student been exposed to individuals with intellectual curiosity and enthusiasm? To what degree have those individuals been able to transmit that spark of passion to the students?
Expecting every class to be worthwhile is too high a bar. But it seems to me that even 10% may be both an extraordinary success, and very difficult to find.
Everyone I know who speaks positively about their college experience left with some kind of star to follow, even when (as in my case) the one they pursued academically and the one they followed professionally were different things. And the opposite seems to hold, as well.
September 23, 2006 at 07:58 PM
I know this does not really answer your question, however, one of my professors (a priest) always told us: "Never let your classes get in the way of your education."
I took that message to heart and viewed college as more of a learning and maturity experience, rather than simply an educational process.
Bryan Sims |
September 24, 2006 at 07:27 PM
Byran-- your professor was paraphrasing Mark Twain, who said "I have never led my schooling get in the way of my education." I've tried to live up to this ideal as well...
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