Ask students, families or politicians about the purpose of college, and the answers usually have something to do with prepare for a career or meet the workforce needs. Ask faculty members, and they’ll often speak about lighting the spark of learning, personal development, and preparing citizens for democracy. The purpose of college is not an either/or question. All viewpoints are valid, so long as we’re meeting the mission and placing our highest priority on students’ futures, while keeping other purposes in balance.
Future for the Graduates
What does a graduate need for the future? (We’ll get to other kinds of students after that.)
Ask employers and you’ll get a specific set of expectations as discussed in the post Employers Demand But Don’t Get Key Skills.
Ask your general education, and you may get a list of courses by column with “choose one from column A…” but you also may get a list of specific outcomes. Ask the faculty to ask, whether each of those outcomes is powering a student’s future? Is each course important? How does it map to the general education outcomes? Are all the outcomes met by the courses listed, no matter the choices?
The General Education outcomes are usually not met by the general education core. The core is a place to start, but the program outcomes complete the future, as far as learning outcomes.
Beyond learning outcomes, do the programs have post graduate outcomes? Employment? Employment in field? Time to break even on college loans? What other outcomes? Happiness? Well-being? Health? Achievement?
Is the institution measuring?
Future for the Non-completing Students
What about students who don’t graduate? Are we powering their future? Key questions to ask, and they are ethical questions, are:
- How much debt is the student walking away with, but with no benefit of degree?
- Are credits for dropped students transferring to other schools? Are drops completing elsewhere? Are they attempting?
- How long can someone go before the institution takes action? WHen do we first suspect a student will not make it? Can we get better at it?
- What support are we giving to students to prevent a drop?
- Do we give support to students who do drop to help them make the best of the situation?
- What are we doing to refine our admissions policies to let students in who can be helped? What’s an acceptable rate of uncertainty? Are we constantly experimenting? Please see the post: Better Serving Students by Refining Admissions Criteria with Analytics.
- Do we strategize around drops and completions?
Powering students’ futures means simply, that they are better for their experience with us. But we cannot rest on the belief nor be satisfied with the status quo. Let’s rephrase the summary:
Students who come to our institution are provably better for their experience in employment, academic progress, and personal welfare,
and we work as the leaders and faculty of the institution to consistently to improve students’ outcomes.
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