Article on purposes of HE

While escorting a high school senior through the college application process this year, I heard a lot about the purpose of higher education. On campus visits, I listened to administrators and professors rhapsodize about how their schools inspire higher-level learning, create a sense of values, ethics and civic engagement and hone critical thinking skills.

But those noble goals often directly contrasted with comments posted by students themselves on college review sites. In online public forums, college graduates debated far more practical matters: Did their college open doors for jobs? Did their undergraduate pedigree get them into law or medical school? Was their school worth $40,000 a year?

So begins an article from the Atlanta Journal Constitution this morning. It’s the age-old argument regarding the purpose of higher education. I won’t be so bold as to say I have an answer to that debate. But, count me in the camp that feels that while a job is a logical outcome of attending college, it is not the sole purpose for it (I might be mangling John Dewey there).

As one who works as a career counselor, I obviously believe that students should be able to parlay their college experience into the world of work upon graduation. But, I also hold strong beliefs in the value of an educated democracy, of ethics, and those other items that seem to be getting dismissed in that opening paragraph.

The sides of this argument are probably not as dichotomous as what usually results from the debate. But, I do have a sense that those who work in higher ed tend to fall on one side of the equation while many parents and students fall on the other. And I posit that in a down economy the voices on that side often grow louder.

Paradox of the day:  Why is it, then, it’s often a challenge for those of us in career counseling roles to get underclassmen to take advantage of our services?

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