Beacons of Hope

This article from Inside Higher Ed by Russell Olwell was very inspiring for me on this Tuesday morning. For those of us at public institutions, this is a reminder of mission. As one person commented on this posting, we have an opportunity to “provide education for students of all ages who have limited means. It is a calling to which we can be proud to respond.”

Jobs, News and Views for All of Higher Education – Inside Higher Ed :: Understanding the Class of 2015

Excerpt:
“Finally, going out to schools and talking about our college has made me realize just how important institutions such as mine, a large urban regional public institution, are. Regional public institutions are not glamorous places to work, and receive little respect in the media or in the academy. They are often trying to bootstrap themselves into research institutions, without the resources of the private and flagship institutions in the state.

However, when you visit schools in working-class areas, universities such as mine are real beacons of hope, where students of limited means can come for a four-year degree. While flagship institutions might be important for their sports teams and teaching hospitals, they are viewed as being as financially and academically out of range as the Ivy Leagues by many families. Four- year regional institutions and two-year colleges are viewed by many families as their real hope for attaining and maintaining a middle class existence in a time of massive economic uncertainty.

While many colleagues on my campus are hoping to bring in students from better high schools, or refocus our institution towards graduate degrees, or increase our G.P.A. and test score requirements, going on the road to a middle school in a non-affluent area can put it in perspective for a faculty member.

In this humble cafetorium sit our future students and parents, and they need our university to be accessible, affordable and safe. They need to meet people who teach there and feel comfortable that we will help them and their children have a better future. They may not have all the preparation we want them to have, but they have done what they could.

As faculty members, if we saw where our students were coming from more often, would make us more gratefully to have them arrive in our classes each September. While it may put come dents in the car, holes in the tires, and raise the gas bill, it would give faculty a stronger sense of the mission and role of our institutions at a time when their existence cannot be taken for granted.”

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Why Choose a Small College

Steven Bell pointed out this article in his blog The Kept-Up Academic Librarian. I find it very interesting on both a personal and professional level. I too am both a parent of a high school sophomore and a library administrator at a small university. I firmly believe that smaller colleges have much to offer students. Most important, as mentioned in this article, are the personal access to high quality faculty members, the opportunities to do research, and the ability to take advantage of special programs. Read the whole article and pass it on to your prospective college students!

Big-name schools aren’t always best | csmonitor.com
From where I sit, both as a parent and as an academic administrator, I say resist the reflex to overvalue the “reach” schools and consider instead the complete package of a college experience. Given the number of well-prepared PhDs in the market, many institutions have first-rate faculties who develop challenging curriculums in their fields. Look for excellent academic programs, but also for undergraduate research, student leadership development, wide-ranging international programs, and opportunities for service. And weigh not only the existence of these programs but also the participation rates of students.