Unit 1: Launch
“Learning is a treasure that will follow its owner everywhere.”
– Chinese Proverb
What’s college for? That’s a little question with a big answer! A college education comes in many shapes and sizes. In 2014, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, there were over 4,700 different post-secondary degree- granting institutions in the United States.1
These schools may be public, private, religious, small, large, for-profit, community colleges, junior colleges. Considering the variety of college options, there is no single answer to the question, “What is college for?” Brenda Hellyer, Chancellor of San Jacinto College in Houston and Pasadena, Texas, wrote in the Chronicle of Higher Education that students “are seeking more than an education—they are seeking options, opportunities, and guidance.”
How do you view college?
What will define college success for you?
People go to college for a variety of reasons. The type of college you select will help set parameters and expectations for your experiences. Before jumping into the details of going to college, it’s important to stop and think about the purpose college has in your life. Traditionally, college was a place young adults went after high school to explore courses and majors before settling into a job path. According to a 2015 UCLA survey, most people currently go to college for one or more of 7 main reasons:2
Video: Don’t Just Follow Your Passion: A Talk for Generation Y, Eunice Hii at TEDxTerryTalks 2012
What impression does this TED Talk leave you with? Which generation are you?
An article from 2015 in the Washington Post, What’s the purpose of college: A job or an education? says that students entering college today list getting a better job as the most important reason to attend college. In the past, learning about things that interested them was listed as the top reason to attend college. When did the change in priority occur? Dan Berrett says the change in priority can be linked to Ronald Reagan, when he was Governor of California.
Economic times were tough in 1967 for California. Everyone needed to “tighten their belts.” At that time, California was known for its excellent higher educational system. In a speech Reagan gave on Feb. 28, 1967, a month into his term as Governor, Reagan assured people that he wouldn’t do anything to harm the quality of their public education system. “But,” he added, “We do believe that there are certain intellectual luxuries that perhaps we could do without.” Taxpayers should not be “subsidizing intellectual curiosity,” he said. By the time Reagan won the presidency, in 1980, practical degrees had become the popular choice. In the 1930s, around the time Reagan went to college, about 8% of students majored in “business and commerce.” When he was elected Governor, that share was 12%. By the time he moved into the White House, more students majored in business than anything else. Business, as a major, has held that top spot ever since.
What frames your value of education?
What kind of return on your investment do you expect from college?
Deciding to go to college has an “opportunity cost.” An opportunity cost is based on the economic principle that there are limited resources available and choices must be made. Examples of resources would be things like time and money. If you are spending time doing something, you must give up doing something else you want to do. That is the opportunity cost of your choice. Going to college will have an opportunity cost in your life. An important question to ask in the beginning of your college venture is: what are you willing to trade off for going to college?
Opportunity costs are tied to the idea of return on investment. Once you make an investment of your time and money in college, what investment are you hoping to get in return? How you define success in relationship to your college experience impacts how you see the concept of return on investment. Some ways to gauge return on investment include: job opportunities after college, immediate financial benefit to earned wages, social network/connections made while attending college, development of communication and other “soft skills,” and personal enrichment and/or happiness.
Short-term rewards compared to long-term rewards are another way to look at return on investment. For example, it takes much longer to become a CEO (Chief Executive Officer) of a company than it does to get a well-paid job at the same company. Different skills would be required from the CEO and it may require more investment to acquire those skills. Frances Bronet, the Dean of the School of Architecture at the University of Oregon, conducted a survey of former engineering graduates when she taught at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. She asked former graduates what they felt they had missed in their education. The results were very different depending on how recent their graduation was. Students who had graduated 1 year ago felt that they needed more technical skills. People who had graduated 5 years ago felt that they needed more management skills, and people who had graduated 10-20 years ago felt that they needed more cultural literacy because their work now involved more working with other cultures.
Deciding to go to college is a big decision and choosing a course of study can seem overwhelming to many students. Considering the changing world we live in, knowing what direction to go is not easy. According to Richard Riley, secretary of education under Bill Clinton, “We are currently preparing students for jobs that don’t exist using technology that haven’t been invented in order to solve problems that we don’t even know.”
Online or In-Person Discussion:
In an online class, it’s important to try to get to know each other a little bit. Likely you will see your fellow IDIS502 students in future classes at GSC and online classes work best when everyone participates actively. Rather than having you watch hours of lecture, this course (and many other online class formats) requires that you contribute to the conversation to further the learning process for everyone. As a group, you will be sharing what you know, offering and receiving advice, and providing depth to the class. As an introduction, please introduce yourself and explain the reasons why you have decided to attend college at this point in your life. Two to three paragraphs will suffice. We understand that it’s not always easy to share personal information, so please only share as much as you are willing to. (Conversely, please only share what is appropriate for classroom discussion!) Please post your initial post by Thursday at 11:59pm and respond to at least two other students by Sunday at 11:59 pm.
Your initial post (2-3 paragraphs) should include answers to most, if not all, of the following questions:
- Why are you here?
- Why college, why now?
- How do you define college?
- How do you know when you are ready for college?
- What have you done to prepare for college?
- What does going to college mean for your future?
- Using the list of 7 reasons students attend college provided in this chapter, rank your reasons for going to college.
- Opportunity Cost Analysis: Create a pie chart identifying how you currently spend your time (daily/weekly).
Response: Please respond to at least two other students. While you may comment on more than two students, two of your responses must provide specific commentary on the student’s post and be 4-5 sentences long. You may want to respond in the following ways:
- Comment on how the student defines college and the reasons why they chose to go to college and compare to your own responses. Do you have similar or differing reasons?
- If you are returning to college after a break in time, why did you stop attending? Why did you decide that now was the time to come back?
- Ask follow up questions!
- Have you experienced examples that would highlight their responses?
1 U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Digest of Education Statistics, 2015 (National Center for Education Statistics 2016-014), Table 105.50.
2 Kevin Eagan et al., The American Freshman: National Norms Fall 2015 (Los Angeles: Higher Education Research Institute, UCLA, 2015).
Scott Carlson, “How to Assess the Real Pay Off of a College Degree,” Chronicle of Higher Education, 2013.
Jeffery J. Selingo, “What’s The Purpose of College: A Job or An Education?,” The Washington Post, 2015.
Licenses and Attributions:
CC licensed content, Shared previously:
Lamoreaux, Alise. A Different Road To College: A Guide For Transitioning To College For Non-traditional Students. Open Oregon Educational Resources, 2018. https://openoregon.pressbooks.pub/collegetransition/chapter/chapter-1/ License: CC BY: Attribution.
Adaptions: Reformatted. Added learning objectives. Modified reasons for going to college. Updated sources.
Robinson, Ken. “Do Schools Kill Creativity?” TED, TED Conferences LLC, Feb. 2006. https://www.ted.com/talks/ken_robinson_says_schools_kill_creativity
License: CC BY – NC – ND 4.0 International.
All rights reserved content:
Hii, Eunice. “Don’t Just Follow Your Passion: A Talk for Generation Y.” TEDxTerryTalks. University of British Columbia, November 3rd, 2012, Vancouver, BC, Canada. https://youtu.be/sgbzbdxTm4E. License: All Rights Reserved. License Terms: Standard YouTube license.
- Dan Barrett, “The Day the Purpose of College Changed,” Chronicle of Higher Education, accessed April 26, 2018, https://www.chronicle.com/article/The-Day-the-Purpose-of-College/151359. ↵