Share on Google Plus Share on Twitter Share on Facebook 2 Share on LinkedIn Share on PInterest Share on Fark! Share on Reddit Share on StumbleUpon Tell A Friend (2 Shares)  
Printer Friendly Page Save As Favorite View Favorites View Stats   3 comments

Exclusive to OpEdNews:
OpEdNews Op Eds

Higher Education: A Little Perspective

By (about the author)     Permalink       (Page 1 of 1 pages)
Related Topic(s): ; ; ; , Add Tags Add to My Group(s)

View Ratings | Rate It

opednews.com Headlined to H3 9/1/10

- Advertisement -


The Rotunda at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. by Kevin H.'s Fickr Photostream

Public support of higher education, it seems, has always been a challenge. The value of college degrees has recently been challenged in the news media, noting the need for vocational training in the trades and questioning whether college degrees are overrated. Our society will always need trained professionals, whether they be plumbers, electricians (traditional trades) or professionals holding specialized advanced degrees.

President Obama has set a goal for Americans to rank number 1 worldwide (we are currently ranked 12th) in the college graduation rate in the next decade. This would require about 60% of Americans to "earn college degrees and certificates by 2020 to regain our international lead, compared with about 40% today", according to Education Secretary Arne Duncan. To meet this ambitious goal, eight million more students would need to complete their college degrees, whether at the Associate or Bachelor's level, in the next decade.

Public institutions of higher education are increasingly expected to do more with less. In New Jersey, the legislature has reduced funding to state colleges and universities more than seven times in the last decade. The last public bond investment for facilities was some 22 years ago. At the same time, enrollments continue to increase.

With a new academic year upon us soon, I would like to offer a little perspective.

Imagine this scenario. A brilliant leader in education dreams of founding a new public University that will provide the finest education possible. S/he firmly believes that an educated citizenry is necessary for a free society.

Sufficient funds have been raised to support initial construction of the academic buildings and the first faculty member has been hired. But the state legislature is reluctant to provide funding to allow completion of the building, causing considerable delays of opening for its first academic year. Ripple effects ensue. The first freshmen class cannot be admitted if the University is not ready, and the first cohort of faculty are up in arms, as are the staff - not to mention the builder and construction crew waiting to complete the buildings.

- Advertisement -

Fuming with frustration, the founder writes a letter in March to one of the new faculty members informing him that:

""the Treasurer's default at so critical a moment will, in my opinion, have the unfortunate effect of delaying the opening (of) the institution another year,""

Things do not improve. In fact, public support of this new University remains difficult, delaying opening by not one but five years. By that time, the original entering class would have likely already graduated! The originally hired faculty resign.

Throughout this nightmare of financial woes, the founder never loses faith, keeping the dream alive of a new University that would allow individuals to achieve their highest potential unlike anything accomplished before.

- Advertisement -

Is this scenario ridiculous, fictional? No it is not. The situation described is adapted from a letter by Thomas Jefferson, founder of the University of Virginia, to Dr. Thomas Cooper hired as the first faculty member to teach natural science and law, dated March 8, 1820.

While the cost of higher education has increased, it is a bargain compared to the original graduates at U. Va. In 1828, the tuition, room and board at U. Va. was $233 (~ $4,600 in today's dollars) or about half of the average lower/middle class family income at that time. The current cost for tuition, room and board at a public four year institution is $12,285 or ~26% of the average family income in the U.S.

Today, the reputation of the University of Virginia speaks for itself. Such an august institution has seen less and less support from its state. An April 2010 report states:

"UVa's state allocation has been cut four times by a total of $36.8 million, or 25 percent, including a mid-year reduction of $4.7 million in the current fiscal year." Doing more with less"!

 

Jeffrey H. Toney is Dean of the College of Natural, Applied and Health Sciences at Kean University and is a Trusted Author at OpEdNews. He received a B.S. in Chemistry at the University of Virginia and an M.S. and Ph.D. in Chemistry at Northwestern (more...)
 

Share on Google Plus Submit to Twitter Add this Page to Facebook! Share on LinkedIn Pin It! Add this Page to Fark! Submit to Reddit Submit to Stumble Upon


Go To Commenting

The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of this website or its editors.

Follow Me on Twitter

Contact Author Contact Editor View Authors' Articles
Related Topic(s): ; ; ; , Add Tags
- Advertisement -

Most Popular Articles by this Author:     (View All Most Popular Articles by this Author)

BP Oil Spill -" Will Water in the Gulf Become The Next Bangladesh?

"Snow Globes: Innocent Souvenir or Potential Terrorist Threat?"

"A Bidding War For Recovered BP Oil: Why Not A Carrot Instead Of A Stick?"

BP Underwater ROV's: Will Video Gamers Save The Day?

The Global Digital Landscape

Affordable Care Act - Will Promises Become Reality?

Comments

The time limit for entering new comments on this article has expired.

This limit can be removed. Our paid membership program is designed to give you many benefits, such as removing this time limit. To learn more, please click here.

Comments: Expand   Shrink   Hide  
2 people are discussing this page, with 3 comments
To view all comments:
Expand Comments
(Or you can set your preferences to show all comments, always)

Is a college degree overrated, or will more colleg... by Jeffrey Toney on Wednesday, Sep 1, 2010 at 12:27:18 PM
Some thoughts for Opening Day at a Public Universi... by Jeffrey Toney on Wednesday, Sep 1, 2010 at 12:29:32 PM
Great Article. I see several fundamental issues th... by James Marandi on Wednesday, Sep 1, 2010 at 5:21:08 PM