COLUMN: College is more than just time in the classroom
There is an interesting and ongoing debate in our country, our state and our university over what the priorities of an institution of higher education ought be. Everyone knows resources are limited — that’s true of any institution — and have to be divvied up between a lot of worthy competing interests.
Few people seriously suggest anything should take higher precedence on a university’s to-do list than promoting academic excellence. All of us are here at USU to get an education and therefore have a better shot at getting a good job, giving back to our communities and making a difference in the world. The better the quality of our education, the better our investment is in terms of time, energy and tuition.
But some have argued that since academics obviously hold the highest rank of value at universities, they should be the only priority of the institution. The sole purpose of a university, these people would argue, is the one explicitly in its title: an institution of higher education. It is the school’s responsibility to cultivate a successful academic atmosphere — and nothing more.
Let’s be upfront — extracurricular programs aren’t cheap.
Every dollar the university spends on Mr. USU, end-of-year festivities or even the athletics program — despite the revenue athletics brings into the university — is money we could be investing in academic scholarships, research grants, hiring new faculty and offering more classes.
But I believe there are worthy investments of a university’s time and resources that don’t fall strictly within the confines of the classroom or lab. Our time in college is about more than just taking classes and doing research. It’s even about more than getting a well-rounded academic education, though that’s critically important. It’s also about making lifelong friends, about being exposed to new ideas and new horizons, about learning to dream big and work hard.
College is about becoming a person.
A marvelous amount of that big-picture developmental process takes place in the classroom, but a marvelous amount more happens when students get together on a Saturday night to share great poetry and a good beverage or when they don the glorious hues of Aggie blue and scream themselves hoarse at a football game.
I believe that at the same time that it’s worth every penny to invest our formal education — and that USU should always strive to maintain academic excellence as its first priority — it’s also worth investing in the sports teams, the extracurricular events and the community-building activities that make us proud to be Aggies.
When our school invests in the whole college experience, both within and outside of the classroom, that’s when our university ceases to just be a college community and starts to become an Aggie family. 12
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