The Pursuit of Higher Education

The pursuit of higher education, attending college, has drastically being emphasized on a daily basis. People now days view the bachelors degree as an essential requirement in life and in the career field. However, the importance of college education has been widely debated and questioned. We raise questions about the purpose of attending a four-year college, the things we learn from a four-year institution, and the cost of attending college.

I remember taking a university course on liberal arts education (UC270)

Angel Hall (University of Michigan)

in my sophomore year that mainly discussed the importance of liberal arts education and how it affects people in the long term. I took that class because I was curious about the idea of a liberal arts college and why we all need to pay so much to get a degree. Students, like me, often ask why do I even need to take science courses to fulfill my general credits when I hate science and don’t do well on it? More importantly, I am required to pay huge tuition on subjects that I don’t even find worthwhile. Students also complain about how the idea of maintaining a perfectly high GPA actually makes learning difficult and turns course selection into a troublesome and complex decision.

I spent a semester reading various articles on how liberal arts education actually improves the well being of each student in the long term. The main purpose of liberal arts education is to broaden one’s gaze and allow one to explore different interests and passions that might make a difference in life. There is the idea of exploring yourself through different classes and subjects that seem intriguing or unknown. The journey of exploration allows students to be exposed to a wide range of fields that makes life more colorful and meaningful. This is why pro liberal arts advocates often disagree with specialized programs that narrow down the path for students early on in college.

The article, Live And Learn: Why We Have College? by Louis Menand provides three distinctive theories that answer some parts of our concerns and why we need to attend college at the first place. The first theory Menand proposed was the idea of intelligence, which is essentially an elimination process that differentiates the highly intelligent students from the general public. The third theory Menand proposed was the idea that a specialized degree, usually business, identifies a person with specific skills required for work. It allows people to get hired more easily. However, interestingly Menand introduced two authors, Richard Arum and Josipa Roksa, of Academically Adrift and pointed out an interesting finding, which is that students majoring in liberal arts fields do better on C.L.A. (Collegiate Learning Assessment), and show better improvements and correlate positively with learning than the students in non liberal arts fields. This boils down to the fact that aside from intelligence and GPAs, maybe liberal arts education, associating with a wide range of subjects, provides a better environment for students to learn from.

I guess there really isn’t one answer or the right answer to how important college means to students and how college affects on students. The readings and the course I took gave me a broader sense to the different ways a student gets to choose his or her suitable education. It is more important to understand what one can get out of from liberal arts education, non liberal arts education or neither than to compare which education is better. I think it all boils down to what one aims for and what one is suitable for.


Louis Menand, “Live and Learn Why We Have College”, The New Yorker, (2011)

3 thoughts on “The Pursuit of Higher Education

  1. While receiving a liberal arts education may be extremely rewarding to many students, there are some students that may not benefit at all from learning about subjects they have no interest in. As a current student, I know that studying for a class I’m disinterested in is hard and frustrating, as none of the material really interests me and I am studying solely for the grade. I am not a huge fan of colleges forcing business majors to fulfill a certain amount of science and humanities credits. Although it is a good idea broaden your horizon and open up to learning new topic, for some students this is not the case. To those students the main goal of learning is thrown away, as they just study for the class and forget all they have learned when the class is over. At the end of the day, it all depends solely on the student. But I am against colleges forcing students to take liberal arts classes.


  2. I agree with this comment above. How can we force students to take classes that they are just blatantly not interested in? Although it may broaden their horizon, these students will not be as motivated to do well. This idea applies to Menand’s 3rd theory of higher education that considers a new tracking device that implies that access to liberal arts degrees is mostly for elites and less for the masses. Thus, the majority of students want to only take classes that they are interested in and not have a certain curriculum that they have to fill.


  3. What is the most important thing you will learn in college? Is it individualism? Knowledge? How to succeed in the real world? People have different opinions on why students choose to go to college. Some feel as though college will help them get a job in the future, while others go purely for the education. With this being said, I think the author of this post and the commenters are both right, and both wrong. You are both making assumptions. Not everyone goes to college for the same reason, and people want to study things for different reasons. I agree that a liberal arts education may broaden one’s horizons, but what if that is not why they wanted to go to college? Maybe they had a specific goal in mind when going to college, such as getting a business degree and working for their father’s company? Or, maybe somebody wanted to go to college purely for the education, and taking a ton of different classes was the best way to do this. Sometimes people are passionate about what they are good at, but sometimes they are not. In short, I do not believe that it is fair to say that a liberal arts education is a better or worse route for a college student because it all depends on the individual.


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