When I wake in the middle of night, I find myself worrying about the de-valuing of education in our society. The so-called news media rarely educates, but rather entertains. Videos of cute kittens are more prominent than in-depth analyses of the Middle East. Tweets are more common than treatises. And calls for affordability in college pricing rarely if ever refer to the quality of education to which all Americans should have access. Cost and price are disassociated as if the education received as part of a 250-student lecture were equivalent to that achieved in a 10-student seminar.
Colleges are nonprofit entities that serve the public good. We want to enroll and educate students. Liberal arts colleges in particular provide enormous amounts of need-based aid. For this reason, in the state of Pennsylvania, private colleges enroll a higher percentage of low-income students than do the publics. The education we provide is more than a job ticket—it prepares students to be lifelong learners and responsible citizens who, yes, have a lifetime of profitable careers. We want as many students as possible to have access to this type of transformative education.
Americans seem to understand the relationships between cost and quality in terms of cars, houses, and consumer goods. We must help them understand that the same relationship exists in education. Until Americans truly value education and see it as an investment worthy of both public and private support, our country’s future is dim.
Tori Haring-Smith, President, Washington & Jefferson College