Presidential Debate: College as a Passion for Learning or a Means to a Paycheck?

A diminished sense of higher education’s purpose is a problem facing all liberal-arts institutions.

By George David Clark in the Chronicle for Higher Education

Neither candidate seemed willing to imagine higher education as anything more than a means to a credential
Rob Jenkins’s recent warnings about the tendency of politicians to reduce community colleges to “job-training centers” strike me as particularly apt in the aftermath of Wednesday night’s presidential debate. Despite their “passion for education,” neither candidate seemed willing to imagine higher education as anything more than a means to a credential.
.
When President Obama spoke of community colleges’ preparing their students for “the jobs of today,” it was clear he meant simply a trade and a paycheck. Jenkins points out the flaws in that limiting vision in his most recent post to this blog, and I won’t rehash them here.
.
I would like, however, to expand and complicate a point made by one commenter—that a diminished sense of higher education’s purpose is a problem facing all liberal-arts institutions and that it’s the customer who will ultimately determine whether the future of American colleges will resemble more a “track” system of job certification or a place to broadly explore the various fields of learning as a means of discovering and fostering the passions that sustain a career…
.

Continue reading