What’s a College For?

The American Prospect ruminates on what, exactly, is the purpose of higher education.

More than nine Americans in 10 say that universities are among the nation’s “most valuable resources,” but they hold different and sometimes conflicting ideas about what universities are valuable for. Universities are expected to generate ideas and generate jobs, to prepare the next generation of leaders and open their doors to the great mass of high school graduates, to speak truth to power and serve as resources for those in power.

What IS a college for?
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Many of my students believe that college is for getting an education so that they can get a better job. Certainly I went to college with the understanding that the work I wanted to do required a degree. Are they wrong? No. I don’t think so. Especially in this day, when people who don’t need a degree to do the job still need the degree to get the job.

But I also went to college to enjoy the experience of being away from home for the first time and to have fun. I didn’t party hard or anything, but I did get the B average I told my mother I was going to get. Since I went on to graduate school, that wasn’t a huge detriment.

Is college to give our students the education to live a life within the expected culture of society? That’s a lot of what the liberal arts aim for. Is it still necessary with the prominent and celebrated multiculturalism?

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