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Opinion

College teaches more than the text

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November 15, 2007

My CBE 100 students, over the past two weeks, have been reading a chapter on goal-setting and time management from our textbook. The chapter starts with a section on defining your personal values, and then the author discusses setting long-term and short-term goals. Finally, there is a section on linking your goals with your values, which leads into an example of how students can identify their personal educational goals. After reading this chapter, my students had to answer this question: Why did you decide to enroll in college?

I was not surprised when several students listed as one of their top priorities to get a good job, to make more money or to be financially independent. After all, the median income of people in the United States who have a Bachelor’s degree ($37,000) is almost twice as large as the median income of those who only have a high school diploma ($19,500). Higher education does provide more and better financial opportunities, but this is not simply the result of sitting in classes and taking exams over four, five or six years. As many of my students pointed out, it is marketable skills that are developed in college which lead to better career opportunities. Some of these skills are written and oral communication, leadership, teamwork, critical thinking, creativity, organization, decision-making and time management. Potential employers are very interested in students who have developed marketable skills.

There are many ways for college students to develop these skills. Class projects and assignments require critical thinking, decision-making and teamwork, as well as good communication skills. Being involved in extracurricular activities as a member or an officer in a club or campus organization can help students sharpen their leadership, creativity and time management abilities.

Several students mentioned that college provided a way to meet new people and make new friends. This can give someone “a fresh start” compared to high school. Another reason that some students gave for being in college was to be more independent and more responsible. They viewed living in the residence hall, being away from parents and having to make their own decisions as ways to take charge of their lives.

All of the reasons for attending college that I have already discussed are very appropriate and legitimate ones for students, especially in their first semester, as most of my CBE 100 students are.However, I was extremely pleased when several students listed the following reason: they wanted to be in college for the sheer joy of learning new things. It gives me a “warm fuzzy” feeling to know that the love of learning is alive and well among our students. The knowledge that our young women and men are anxious to learn makes me want to come to my office each morning and even stay late some nights.

Thanks to my students for reminding me why I am here!  Being a college professor at UWRF is not a job that I have to do, it’s a great opportunity. Every day I interact with dedicated colleagues (faculty and staff) and wonderful students. That’s why I’m here!

Brian Schultz is in his 29th year as a faculty member in the Economics Department at UWRF. He has been associate dean in the College of Business and Economics for the past four years, and serves as director of the UWRF Center for Economic Education.