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The Value of a College Education

Dr. John Schwenn
Dr. John O. Schwenn is the President of Dalton State College.

We like to say that students come to Dalton State College “to get an education, not just a degree.” But that begs the question: what is an education and how is getting one different from getting a diploma?

It depends on who you ask.

Even among college presidents, our purpose is cloudy. The Pew Research Center tells us that half of 1,055 college and university presidents surveyed believe that colleges are here to help students grow intellectually, while 48 percent say that colleges exist to provide students skills, knowledge, and training to help them succeed in the work world.

At Dalton State, we believe it is our job to educate students for a lifetime, not simply train them for a job. When graduates leave us, we hope they take with them a body of knowledge, not just a skillset – we believe we teach students how to live, not just how to make a living.

This is a philosophical difference between us and other providers of higher learning.

In an article last fall, The Wall Street Journal reported that the average American will undergo as many as seven career changes in a lifetime; we’ve all heard these reports before. How does an institution teach someone all the “stuff” they will need to know to do seven different jobs over a period of several decades? We believe strongly that it is our job to expand intellectual capacity so that graduates can learn what they need to learn for each specific job they encounter – even the ones that haven’t been invented yet.

In their time on our campus and in our classrooms, we are teaching students how to think critically and to reason and to analyze; rather than teach them all the answers, we teach them how to frame the proper questions. We’re in the business of expanding brainpower.

We do this by exposing them to a wide variety of academic disciplines that are grounded in the liberal arts: humanities, math, science and social science. We want them to explore creativity and learn all sides of an issue before developing an opinion. We want each of our students to know how to write and how to speak and how to think like an educated person. David Leonhardt recently wrote in the New York Times that a new study (“The Undereducated American” by Georgetown University’s Center on Education in the Workforce) shows that “a bachelor’s degree pays off for jobs that don’t require one: secretaries, plumbers, and cashiers. And, beyond money, education seems to make people happier and healthier.”

In a recent letter to the editor published in The Wall Street Journal, Elio Valenti posits that “not all students are college material,” and how could we disagree? College is not the place for everyone; we’ve said before that it is a waste of time, energy, and money to push a student to matriculate who clearly lacks the ability or will to succeed in the academic environment. College is not, as we tell our new students at orientation, “high school, part II.”

But for those individuals who have an intellectual curiosity, who want to know the why and the where and the when and the how of life’s great mysteries, college can be a transformative time like no other, a time of growth and discovery, inquiry and enlightenment.

More than ever, we are so pleased to be able to offer the benefits of a college education at a cost that we believe is within the economic grasp of most Georgia families.

Dalton State was recently included in a Department of Education “College Affordability and Transparency List” as being among the nation’s most affordable four year public colleges. The list, which covers the 2009-2010 academic year, cites Dalton State for its low tuition and fees: $2,400 compared to the then national average of $6,397. When you couple our low tuition and fees with the quality of the educational experience our students receive, it becomes apparent that a Dalton State education is hard to beat – anywhere in the country.

We know from the Pew study that 75 percent of adults surveyed believe that college is too expensive for most Americans to afford; Pew also tells us that nearly all (94 percent) of parents surveyed expect their children to attend college and that 86 percent of college graduates surveyed said they believe that their own education was a good investment for them.

We welcome those who are looking for a quality collegiate experience at an affordable price to consider Dalton State College.

Dalton State, 650 College Drive, Dalton, GA 30720
706.272.4436 • 1.800.829.4436 • www.daltonstate.edu