What’s the Purpose of U.S. Higher Education Anyway?

college

collegeThe Melibee Book Club selection for this month, Higher Education? How Colleges are Wasting our Money and Failing our Kids – and What We Can Do About It, is a timely selection as I begin my Ed.D. program in Leadership and Innovation.  American Higher Education is regarded by many as among the most innovative in the world and a model for other countries to look towards. However, authors  Hacker and Dreifus take a ruthless look at the current state of the U.S. higher education system and the result is none too pleasing.  Upon finishing the book, I’m left with a question: what should the purpose of U.S. universities be?

In the past, our universities began as a sort of cultural finishing school to turn aristocratic young men into well-rounded adult leaders for society, hence the birth of the liberal arts tradition for many institutions of higher learning.  Strong ties to the community and the desire to seek knowledge for the sake of knowledge were hallmarks of the system. However, these days, higher education has become a big business with the bottom lines seeming to be who can churn out the most research and transition students into careers.  As Hacker highereducationbookand Dreifus discovered in their trek across the country to meet with different institutions, universities are now seen as a means to a job rather than simply for the betterment of oneself through a quest for knowledge.  At the cost of what students nowadays must pay to attend college, can anyone really begrudge a student and their family from wanting their college education to guarantee them a job at the end of their four years?  Still, what is our country losing by pumping out dissertations, degrees, and graduates from programs such as ‘Golf Course Management?’  A question I often wonder is does a bachelor’s degree even mean anything any more?  

It is these topics and more, from the outrageous discrepancies in pay between tenure-track faculty members and adjuncts, to the dismal teaching skills of professors at the Ivy League schools, that are examined under the harsh, yet justified lens of Hacker and Dreifus’ book. Join Melibee Global for a spirited discussion concerning the troubling issues raised in the book on November 3rd, 2014 7:00 PM Eastern–I look forward to hearing your opinions on the book and state of U.S. Higher Education!

kylerausch2About the Author: Kyle Rausch is a member of the Melibee Global hive. We invite you to read more about him here.

  • Marty Tillman

    “At the cost of what students nowadays must pay to attend college, can anyone really begrudge a student and their family from wanting their college education to guarantee them a job at the end of their four years? ” Of course not — a new narrative about the “worth” of college and a degree [other than in the the traditional occupational fields such as medicine, law, etc] has emerged since the recession. I think that we are moving toward a re-consideration of the question, “Is college for everyone?” Or perhaps it should be put as is a four-year residential degree for everyone; and the answer there is no. I credit the Obama administration and Jill Biden for reminding us that we have a vital community college system in every state to provide degrees which are directly linked to the workforce in vital fields.

  • Kyle

    Thanks for your comment, Marty. I am very glad you mentioned our ‘vital community college’ system, because I completely agree that the four-year degree offered by universities is not, and does not need to be, for everyone. I think more good would be done by focusing on changing the stigma associated with attending a community college as many do just as good a job, if not better, at preparing students for certain vocations for a fraction of the cost. This is one aspect of Hacker and Dreifus’ argument, too.