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Back-to-College Basics

A former Phi Beta Kappa executive secretary, Douglas Foard, once said: "It's imperative to communicate to faculty and students that they must learn how to live a life, rather than simply have the skill to earn a living."

That speaks to an intriguing trend gleaned from the latest College Board report of those taking its Scholastic Aptitude Tests.

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The board reports that the percentage of students heading toward college who also plan to earn a master's or doctoral degree has risen to over 50 percent during the past decade.

A BA or BS just isn't enough anymore for the upwardly mobile.

Such rising educational ambitions (and expense) confirms a growing impression that a bachelor's degree has become much more like a high school diploma. It's a necessity, not a luxury.

Could it be time to rethink the goal of securing that bachelor's sheepskin?

Liberal arts education has been on a downward course since the 1960s, as more students see a college education as mere preparation for a specific career more than for a life of learning and broad comprehension of ideas, society, and culture.

But if career narrow-casting and a concentration on learning a specific body of knowledge can be put off till graduate school, perhaps students can let their college years be a rich, exploratory, intellectual experience. Evidence shows that the most memorable academic learning in college takes place outside the classroom, in extracurricular activities and residential settings.

Today's workplaces and communities need better thinkers and good citizens, with the flexibility to learn new skills and adapt to swift changes. That's a worthy "major" for a college degree.


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