The Purpose Of College

After a long break, which cannot be called a summer break because summer has just arrived, it is time to go back to work. My college classes start in a week and a half, and it is full speed ahead. However, with the current economic situation causing recent graduates problems concerning employment, it makes one wonder why someone should go to college? And, as a college professor, what should a college provide for the student?

This morning’s WSJ had an article entitled “Colleges Must Learn To Make The Sale.” The article argues that colleges and universities are hiring marketing chiefs to prove its programs are cost effective. In other words, if the student gets a degree from them, they will be able to get a job. Is that the only reason to get an education? I think not. A college program should have rigor, that teaches a student how to think and communicate; teaches the student how to work and balance multiple requirements; and develop knowledge concerning a particular topic. This is not an exhaustive list, but would be considered a good start.

There is so much more to a college than making a sale. There is the faculty, various programs, and support the student receives from staff people. However, the real reason, at least in my way of thinking, that a student goes to college is to learn how to learn. Learning how to learn is a life long process. If I have taught my students how to do this, then I am a successful professor.

Learning how to learn includes work. Work that is productive and fulfilling. God’s Word tells us that it is by grace we have been saved. Grace is not earned, but is freely given, but that grace then leads to something else, good works. Good works give us a sense of fulfillment as we express the grace we have received.

Eric Fromm said about work, “only in being productively active can man make sense of his life.” Albert Camas stated, “Without work, life goes rotten.” Making a college student work for their degree is critical for the student’s future sense of fulfillment. Students must be given an opportunity to strive with the program and themselves. The Hindus have a saying, “the weakling who has refused the conflict, acquiring nothing, has had nothing to renounce. He alone who has striven and won can enrich the world by bestowing the fruits of his victorious experience.”

Attending college is much more than getting a cost effective education that provides a career. It is a holistic event that changes the student in preparation for life. This is why I like teaching in a small Christ-centered liberal arts school.

And that is my thought for the day!


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