Chances are, a lot of people have told you that you should “go to college.” But is everyone talking about the same thing?
If you ask all of the “college enthusiasts” whom you meet exactly why you should go to college (note: I don’t recommend you do this), you’re likely to get many different answers.
Last week, three very different articles about the benefits of a college education appeared on the Huffington Post. The first endorses the “skills” benefit, the second promotes the “thinking” benefit, and the third explores the “moral” benefit. Let’s take a look at each one.
The Skills Benefit
I’ve mentioned in the past that a college degree improves your job qualifications—i.e., it enables you to find and keep work.
Those who see this as the primary value of a college education argue that a greater proportion of college students should attend two-year and vocational programs. Supporters of this perspective point to the significant number of jobs that require only a two-year or vocational degree. Such programs, however, may only train students to do one specific job.
The Thinking Benefit
Others point to the ability to think rigorously in a variety of situations as the key benefit of a college education. These individuals typically endorse four-year college programs. They say that educating someone for a specific job is shortsighted, as the job market is sure to change significantly within our lifetimes.
The Moral Benefit
Still others, such as the president of Grinnell College, extend the “thinking” benefit to include “moral” skills. They say that the true benefit of a college education is positive social change—i.e., making the world a better place. Liberal arts colleges, in particular, are known to cultivate this attitude in students.
The "moral" perspective argues that those who are privileged enough to seek a college education in this country should give back to society in some way. And it’s their college’s responsibility to motivate them to do so.