By John D. Haeger, President
Recent discussions about tech-inspired disruptions to traditional higher education have prompted me to consider what motivates students to pursue a university education in what is increasingly regarded as the old-fashioned way: on campus.
I’d like to think that all the motivations are well-intended and based on sound information—that these students seek to improve their prospects for achieving fulfilling careers and lives as active citizens, and that they think attending a university in person is the best way to reach their goals.
There continues to be ample evidence that students are correct in their assumptions.
Here are 10 reasons why the traditional on-campus college experience isn’t going away any time soon:
- College can be a place of discovery, and often what is discovered points a student to an outcome that previously would not have even been considered. Much of that discovery comes from interactions and experiences that can occur only through personal experience.
- The idea of attending a four-year college or university is deeply engrained in our culture as a rite of passage on the path to opportunity. Students (and parents) are willing, even eager, to pay the going rate to participate.
- Technology cannot completely duplicate the dynamics of the faculty-student interaction that takes place in person. The power and potential of meaningful, one-on-one academic relationships cannot be denied.
- Social media demonstrates that we value community and connection, or at least the feeling of connectedness. Actually being on campus is a way to feel connected to something bigger than the individual, and to feel part of a special community.
- Knowledge can be distributed but infrastructure, for the most part, cannot. Particularly in the sciences and engineering, the laboratories and equipment required to deliver a high-quality education must be assembled and maintained by an entity that can afford them.
- A spirit of knowledge truly can pervade a physical location. There’s something about a concentration of educated people, educational resources and willing learners. Those who have spent much time on a college campus can tell you that the feeling is palpable.
- Diversity is a powerful force. A college campus, by its very nature, draws students from a wide variety of cultural, ethnic and economic backgrounds. Such diversity can be a multiplier when it comes to expanding one’s perspectives.
- Civic engagement, even in our online world, still requires personal interactions, which makes campus an excellent place to lay the groundwork for a thriving democracy. A campus is an ideal environment in which to germinate the seeds of volunteerism, activism and participation.
- A campus remains a centrally located cache of talent. Yes, we all know the stories of recent graduates and their employment challenges, but employers still turn to campuses to recruit new talent.
- Much of the nation’s scientific research is pursued at colleges and universities—bolstered by federal and private spending—and at a time when American competitiveness in the global economy faces growing challenges, centers of research and development become more crucial than ever.
Editor’s note: The above blog first appeared in the Huffington Post on Jan. 17, 2013