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A College Education: What is its Purpose?

In recent times, researchers began to look for an answer to this question. It comprises a number of issues, including the payment for higher education, the period it should be obtained in, the appropriate institutions of higher education, the knowledge they should give, and the purpose of higher education in general. Thus, the researchers confirm that the discussions of this question are held even in governmental institutions: “On the one hand, policy makers are working hard to convince everyone that they should go to college, while at the same time they are questioning the value and quality of a college education”.

Speculations about the purpose of education are rather popular. People have already turned to this topic earlier. Art Chickering analyzed the purpose of higher education on the example of the period at the end of previous century. The essence of education at that time was “teaching practices, with the inclusion of service learning, internships, and collaborative and problem-based learning”. However, as it is confirmed by the author, nowadays education, students, and their goals are different from earlier ones. Modern researchers prove this fact.

Numerous researches dedicated to understanding of the essence and purpose of higher education are carried out every year. New points of view appear with every new generation. That is why the issue of education is of importance and of great interest for the researchers. For example, the research of Chan, Brown, and Ludlow (2013) represents two points of view on this issue. The first one is of the representatives of higher educational institutions, and the second one is of undergraduate students. The results of the research turned out to be the following. Although, one can think that the main aim of college is to prepare students to the future job and successful career, the results of the research showed some other opinions. The representatives of higher educational institutions determined the purpose of college education as “preparing young adults with general skills and civic education such as, civic values, ideals, and virtues so as to compete in today’s globally competitive knowledge economy”. Moreover, the representatives of higher educational institutions confirm that college should develop “moral values and core competencies” among their students.  As for purposes of higher education, which were named by undergraduate students, they were different. The researchers confirm that students enter a college mainly for two reasons. Some students are aimed at preparation to the future career. The aim of another part of young people is to “experience self-growth”. However, there exists the third group of people, whose goals are mixed. This group of people is moved by mixed motives – “internal reasons such as, self-improvement, achieving life goals, and societal contributions along with several external reasons such as, career, money, and family”. Thus, it is evident that the expectations from higher education are different from the both sides. They are ranging from simple preparation for future job to development of moral values and social skills.

However, in spite of different purposes, which students and representatives of higher educational institutions define, one fact remains unchangeable – the cost of education is increasing. However, as it is confirmed by some researchers, “nine in 10 believed that going to university was important”, but at the same time “only seven per cent were not concerned about the cost of going to university”. It is evident that the cost of education is really high; that is why a lot of teenagers have no possibility to enter a college or university after school. As it was confirmed in one of the essays on this topic, “The residential college leading to a bachelor’s degree at the end of four years works fine for the children of parents who have plenty of money”. However, the author of the same essay confirms that the aim of majority of teenagers, who finished school, is not to obtain a bachelor’s degree, but “to get a satisfying job that also pays well”. However, the problem is that teenagers should obtain additional skills in order to get a job. The dilemma is that they can obtain this knowledge at college, but they do not want to spend four years on it, and the cost of college education is too high for them. As the solution for this problem, the author represents the plan of Barack Obama to discard the bachelor’s degree as a requirement for getting a job, and to let teenagers study in two-year colleges in order to obtain necessary skills for future job. This point of view of the president of the United States is accompanied by his words, which express the thought that in getting a job, skills are more important than the institution, where these skills were acquired.

It is evident that the question of higher education can be regarded from numerous perspectives and from different points of view. As for me, I think that college education should exist. However, my point of view is that the program of college education should take into account the aims of students. If students want to acquire skills only for a future job, it will be appropriate to establish some colleges, which would be aimed only at preparing young adults for their future career. Such colleges can include disciplines, which are necessary only for a particular work – it will make the process of education shorter and more specific. Thus, education in such a college can last for two years. In  result, cost for such an education will be cheaper, and this variant will be more appropriate for students who don’t have enough money to pay for four years of education. However, as it was mentioned above, some students go to college to get bachelor’s degree, and their aim is not only to prepare for future career, but also to develop other skills, to improve personal characteristics, to study different subjects, and to broaden their minds. I suppose that educational program for such students should be broadened. A four-year education at college will be the most appropriate option for them.

Analyzing different points of view on the problem of education, its purpose, and possible changes, the following conclusion can be made. The importance of the education does not decrease – on the contrary, it is discussed every year, and every time new opinions appear. Thus, at the end of the 20th century it was believed that rigorous curriculum is the best way to give knowledge to college students. Nowadays opinions are divided. Some people believe that college should prepare students only for a future job. Others think that college curriculum should develop students and improve their skills. In spite of numerous opinions on the issue of the purpose of higher education, its main purpose is to teach. Certainly, points of view can differ concerning the way of teaching – whether it should teach a future profession, or teach how to survive in the modern world, or something else. Nevertheless, the main purpose remains – to teach students.      

About the author

Dakota Leest is a writer at the company She spends her spare time with her nearest and dearest or reads the classic literature. Take your time to read another Dakota’s Nonverbal Communication Essay.

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