I don’t want to leave the impression from my earlier post that making a college education worth something is all on the students. It’s most certainly not. There are three other factors, at least, that play in to making a college education valuable and not just 4+ years of wasted time:
- The faculty. Faculty have to teach and manage courses so that all students are challenged and pushed, to their intellectual limits, and also that being “intellectually inclined” as I interpreted that term earlier is rewarded. Not just making classes hard, in other words, but setting classes up so that there are amazing intellectual insights and learning experiences — and those are almost always gained by hard work.
- The curriculum. The curriculum that students encounter has to also reward intellectual inclination and demand that all students
- The administration. Administrations have to manage human resources and the curriculum (and all the other stuff involved in running a school) with a view towards the question “Does decision X make the learning experiences of our students more intense and rewarding, or less?”
Phrased in the negative, you can’t have a vital college experience if your faculty are mainly interested in making students feel good and avoiding generating a lot of work for themselves; or if your curriculum is set up so that there’s no real incentive or push for students to be intellectually inclined (i.e. where the slackers end up being the heroes of the student culture and not the achievers); or if your administration doesn’t work to foster an institutional infrastructure that drives toward intellectual pursuits. You can put the best students on the planet into a college like this and absolutely nothing will happen except you’ll have a bunch of very bored and frustrated students.