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A S P E C I A L S U P P L E M E N T T O T H E G A Z E T T E Thursday, November 3, 2011 Whats the Purpose of College? Debate over Personal Growth versus Skills Training Yields Hybrid Opinions B Y K AREN F INUCAN C LARKSON T he purpose of a college educationwhether to encourage personal growth and intellectual devel- opment or to provide tangible skills needed for certain careersis no longer cut and dried. We have a broad mandate, says Stewart Edelstein, executive director of The Universities at Shady Grove in Rockville who notes that many institutions strive to balance the intellectual growth of students with the requirements of the workplace. Todays jobs require more than just academic knowledge. Skills like teamwork and problem solving are part and parcel of being successful. And some careers require spe- cific expertise. Theres no longer a single definition that fits the mission of our institutions of higher learning, says George LaNoue, professor of political science at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. Higher education today serves many masters. Some go to community colleges preparing to transfer, while others go to learn very specific skills, LaNoue says. Our four-year residential institutions tend to allow for more growth and de- velopment as well as the learning of specific subjects and skills that will prepare students for career opportunities. Then, there are online institutions that dont offer the same oppor- tunities for socialization and interaction, but can play a useful role for some students as they allow them to study specific courses at a time of their convenience. HISTORICALLY, PERSONAL GROWTH HAS BEEN MOST IMPORTANT. -Kevin J. Manning, president, Stevenson University ABOUT 47 PERCENT OF AMERICANS SAY THE MAIN PURPOSE OF A COLLEGE EDUCATION IS TO teach work-related skills and impart knowledge, according to a May 2011 survey by the Pew Research Center. Another 39 percent view college as an opportunity for students to grow personally and intellectually. Only 12 percent thought college should be dedicated to both pursuits. Historically, personal growth has been most important, says Kevin J. Manning, president of Stevenson University in Stevenson. Starting in 1636, when Harvard was founded, American institutions focused on classics and theology. It wasnt until 1860 or so, when land-grant colleges like Cornell were founded, that there was a move toward training for the agrarian revolution. With the community college movement in the late 40s and early 50s, some schools became more ca- reer oriented. Still, Manning notes, the underlying philosophy behind a postsecondary degree hasnt really changed. In 1636, PHOTO BY JOHN T. CONSOLI/COURTESY UNIVERSITY OF MARYLAND Students at the University of Marylands College Park campus celebrate homecoming last month. Campus life, specifically independent residential living, might be the most significant factor in students personal growth during their college years, says George LaNoue, a political science professor at the colleges Baltimore location. university leaders had the notion that we needed to create an educated populace or our democracy would not survive ....Without todays powerful, robust, higher education insti- tutions, our society would be in danger. At many four-year schools, the emphasis remains helping students learn to make sense of the world and their place in it. Theres a whole mentoring process embedded in higher education that helps shape learning, says Manning, who serves as a student mentor at Stevenson. About 125 of us do this every year. Helping students learn to think critically and creatively, com- municate effectively and work collaboratively are the primary focus of American universities, says LaNoue. The world is changing so fast and information is growing exponentially that the student who comes in and can do todays task but cant learn tomorrows wont contribute in the long term. One of the big things I like to talk about in relation to edu- cation is curiosity, Manning says. Students should come away with some sense of being in awe and wonder of everything go- ing on in the world and not be embarrassed to ask questions about things. ON A MORE PERSONAL LEVEL, THE FACTOR THAT MOST CONTRIBUTES TO A STUDENTS GROWTH may be living independently. Studies indicate that the most dramatic transformation in college comes from residing in residence halls, says Manning. Residence halls set the tone on campus.They offer students from all over the world the opportunity to meet and share experi- ences with others from different backgrounds and cultures and to take responsibility for all aspects of their lives, LaNoue says. Todays student comes into an educational environment that has been highly refined over 1,000 years, says Manning. It allows us to focus on our intellectual, spiritual and emotional development. It teaches us to communicate, analyze and work in teams.Theres no other place that lays the foundation for the life- long learning needed to ensure our societys future than our institutions of higher education. Pursuing an Advanced Degree Marketability, Motivation and Cost/Benefit Are Key Considerations B Y B ILL H OLLERAN ISTOCKPHOTO/CEFUTCHER How classes are deliveredin person or online is an important consideration for new graduates who are considering pursuing an advanced degree. Sean Naron, a 21-year-old Gaithersburg resident, is a May 2011 graduate of the University of Maryland, College Park. He has a bachelor of arts degree in government and politics, and is currently working as an entry-level advocacy associate at a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit. He says he is mulling over the possibility of going to graduate school. When it comes to deciding whether or not to pursue an advanced degree, higher education officials at local colleges and universities say there are plenty of tough questions and few, if any, easy answers. Do You Really Need that Masters? From his perspective as a newly-minted college graduate working in a field related to his major, Naron says undergrad- uate students who are thinking about pursuing an advanced degree should ask themselves: To get ahead in my chosen field, what type of advanced de- gree would be most practical? Given my current employment and living situation, can I afford the cost? Could I get financial help from my parents or other family members if I need it? Will I be able to pay back loans? What is the possibility that I might lose interest and quit be- fore I complete the degree, thereby losing all or part of the money Ive spent on tuition and fees? In the long run, will this graduate program augment my bachelors degree in a way that will help me pursue my career goals? Students also need to ask themselves whether a graduate de- gree is a requirement of the profession, See ADVANCED, page 3
A S P E C I A L S U P P L E M E N T T O T H E G A Z E T T E Thursday, November 3, 2011 Whats the Purpose of College? Debate over Personal Growth versus Skills Training Yields Hybrid Opinions B Y K AREN F INUCAN C LARKSON T he purpose of a college educationwhether to encourage personal growth and iH I G H E R E D U C A T I O N I N M A R Y L A N D : A S P E C I A L S U P P L E M E N T T O T H E G A Z E T T E Page 2 Thursday, November 3, 2011 What should you study? When mulling a major, begin early, but keep options open B Y B ILL H OLLERAN W hether youre a college-bound high school stu- dentThursday, November 3, 2011 H I G H E R E D U C A T I O N I N M A R Y L A N D : A S P E C I A L S U P P L E M E N T T O T H E G A Z E T T E Page 3 Future Jobs for Future Grads Top Careers Range from Traditional to Technological New students arrive at the University of Maryland, College Park this fallH I G H E R E D U C A T I O N I N M A R Y L A N D : A S P E C I A L S U P P L E M E N T T O T H E G A Z E T T E Page 4 STUDY, from 2 to go outside your comfort zone and try new things. Eventually, you will find what works for you. Once youve set an initial direction, says Wood, see how it plays ouThursday, November 3, 2011 H I G H E R E D U C A T I O N I N M A R Y L A N D : A S P E C I A L S U P P L E M E N T T O T H E G A Z E T T E Page 5Page 6 H I G H E R E D U C A T I O N I N M A R Y L A N D : A S P E C I A L S U P P L E M E N T T O T H E G A Z E T T E Thursday, November 3, 2011