What Is The Purpose Of College?

CNN posted a very interesting article this morning. The tag line was “My College Degree is Worthless.” Needless to say as a college professor that caught my attention. As I read the article it focused on Everest College, which is in the stable of Corinthian College partners, all of which are for profit. It wasn’t anything I hadn’t heard before, but it did make me think, especially in like of our adult degree program at WPC.

We have been providing adult education for over twenty-five years in the Portland/Vancouver area. We have provided education to managers, accountants, social workers, and others who have gone out and made a difference in the community. I think we have done it pretty well, and we have a group of professionals who teach our students, and do a great job. These teachers are both educated and experienced in their fields, and care about what happens to our students. We are careful not to over promise to our students, but we are always working on our program to make it stronger. I can say I am proud of the work we are doing in the adult education world.

Now I want to shift gears to our traditional campus. In order to ensure our traditional and ADP students have the help they need WPC support staff work hard to ensure that tutoring is available. Finding the right students to tutor can be difficult, but Mr. Johanssen and his crew do a great job of ensuring the school has this covered. Yesterday, Rod, our FYLC coordinator, and myself sat down with an entrepreneur from PSU who has developed a process for organizing study groups. This gentleman is an entrepreneur, but he did not study business. His degree was in Social Psychology. As I watched this young man present I saw the passion of an entrepreneur come from someone who did not study the subject.

Thus the writing of this blog this morning, and an attempt to answer three simple questions: should someone go to college? And if they do what school should they attend; study? And what subject should they explore? I will attempt to answer these questions over the never several paragraphs.

I do think everyone should have some level of college. I think it is an important experience, however, I also see the value in the trades. The trades have educational processes too. Apprentice programs are educational activities. Many apprentice programs require you to have a two-year degree to get into them. The college degree signals that the person can complete something. Being an auto-mechanic has now become extremely technical. Computers, and other mechanisms have made working on cars complicated and requiring certifications, which is education. Regardless of what career you choose, education of some form is involved. Even as I wrote this paragraph my thoughts on the subject have evolved.

The question would be better phrased, what type of education should I receive? Should I go to college or a tech school? The second question involves the choice of school and subject? Expensive schools may not be all they promise. Anna Prior states, “Most venture capitalists care less about entrepreneurs college history than whether or not their startup is solving a big problem and if the founders are the right people to take that idea to a viable company.” This passion does not require an expensive education, but a particular way of thinking. I think it really depends on the person and the effort they want to expend.

The next question involves what to study. Education is an opportunity to develop the “diverse set of skills, a network of potential advisors and partners, and soak up the experiences” they need to be successful in life. I hope that no matter what path a person takes it lines up with their gifts and passions. As the old adage states, “if what you get paid to do, it what you love to do, you will never work a day in your life.” I love business, and it is a well rounded education, but you don’t need to study business to be an entrepreneur.

I do think that college is a great time to begin creating your social and professional network. You are developing relationships with other students, interacting with business where you intern, and getting to know professors. While you are doing this you are experiencing life. This is the best part of college. Grades are important, but when I was hiring I never looked at a GPA, I looked at their field of study and their experiences. What could the person do.

I hope that the problem children of education don’t ruin it for the rest of us. Although I don’t believe that people teaching at Everest are thinking about cheating their students out of a good education. I just think their system is based on revenue and not service. Therefore it is incredibly important to remember what the mission of education is. Education is there for people to provide themselves the opportunity to have a better life, not to be given one.

And that is my thought for the day!


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