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)
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) http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2011/06/06/live-and-learn-2