April 25, 2013

Jeff Selingo on What Higher Education Is Supposed To Be

Whether or not you decide to pursue a traditional education, it is certainly helpful to understand the experiences and resources that higher education institutions aim to provide. With the help of thought leaders like Jeff Selingo, we can start to understand the deeper theories and narratives behind higher education in our country.

All too often, learners enter undergraduate and graduate programs with unrealistic expectations of what the school will or can provide. Moreover, in an attempt to master academic writing, pass tests and ace classes - many students miss valuable opportunities to learn through experience and build lifelong connections.

I was told growing up that I should go to college so I can get a “good” job. “You’ll have a better quality of life” - I was told by parents, teachers and mentors. “Doors will be opened and you will be more knowledgeable and well-rounded as a result of investing several years and thousands of dollars.” However well intentioned, these are never good reasons to go to college. By recognizing the critical elements of a traditional college or graduate education, one is able to take full advantage of the resources available and seek out alternative learning options when appropriate.

Editor of The Chronicle for Higher Education and a contributor for The Washington Post, Jeff Selingo, helps us understand what college is supposed to be and why the college experience still matters. In his latest blog post, Jeff describes the elements of an ideal learning environment, which include access to mentors, experiential learning and networking opportunities. Selingo has spent the last year and a half researching the future of higher education and believes that while the physical structure of institutions and the methods of instruction will radically change over time - college - in its ideal form will still provide priceless networking opportunities.

Selingo admits that economic disparities in the country make it difficult for middle class learners to attend highly selective schools. “The transformative power of college still exists today for those able to find the right fit and afford ever increasing tuition prices.” Jeff also points out that experiential learning outside the classroom is necessary and learners must supplement textbook curriculum with community service, research projects and world travel. He urges us as a nation to make sure we aren’t creating a two-tiered higher education system in this country where there is unequal access to quality learning experiences.

Jeff Selingo wrote a book titled College (Un)Bound: The Future of Higher Education and What It Means for Students.

I believe discussions on the assumed and actual role of higher education institutions is a great place to start when developing solutions for transforming the accessibility of education. When learners understand how to seek out valuable experiences and discover how to organically build learning communities and networks, students are much more likely to become independent thinkers and lifelong learners.

By Tiffany Mikell

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