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From The Chronicle of Higher Education, Friday, April 26, 2013. See http://chronicle.com/article/What-Is-College-For-/138683/
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NOTE: What follows is one of a number of heads of colleges/universities responses to the question "What is college for?" The other responses can be viewed at the given URL above.
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Commentary     
What Is College For?

Lately there has been a great deal of discussion about the importance of measuring a college's "return on investment." Is the point of a college education quantifiable results or personal and intellectual growth? In pursuit of answers, The Chronicle asked a selection of higher-education leaders.
Phyllis M. Wise  --  Chancellor of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and a vice president of the University of Illinois

Should we be preparing students for the work force, or should we be preparing them for lifelong learning? The answer is, "Yes."

We must provide students with the tools and skills necessary for gainful employment. However, data suggest that today's graduates will have three different professions during their lives. It is our responsibility, therefore, to teach students how to learn, how to find information, and how to work collaboratively across disciplines and cultures. In a global economy where our interactions are no longer bound by geography, cross-cultural understanding and communication are essential.

In college, students establish the intellectual foundations for their careers, and it is when they have the freedom to explore paths their lives might take. It is the rare student who comes to us with a clear life map already in hand. We can put choices in front of students, but we must do so in an academically structured manner.

It is important to teach students a body of knowledge-the "facts" of a discipline. One cannot pursue any profession without understanding the principles of it. Good universities find a balance where students are free to form their long view of the world while at the same time acquiring the knowledge and skills to pursue a rewarding profession. We fail when we force students to choose a college experience where they must pick one or the other.

We prepare students for the jobs and the careers that will emerge and grow and change in the next 20 years-perhaps in industries not yet conceived. These aren't job skills-these are life lessons.

And these are the lessons college must teach.
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-- 
Jerry P. Becker
Dept. of Curriculum & Instruction
Southern Illinois University
625 Wham Drive
Mail Code 4610
Carbondale, IL  62901-4610
Phone:  (618) 453-4241  [O]
            (618) 457-8903  [H]
Fax:      (618) 453-4244
E-mail:   jbecker@siu.edu