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Posts from the President Vol 21
2015-08-11
 
In a recent article, “Achieving Equity in Higher Education: The Unfinished Agenda,” the authors name four educational goals that will accomplish the task of making higher education more equitable to all of humanity. They base their claims on 50 years of research in higher education. These goals are character development, leadership, civic responsibility, and spirituality.
 
The current public questions about higher education fly in the face of these goals. People ask questions about return on investment, by which they mean what is the earning potential of a university graduate versus a non-graduate. If that is the measure of a successful school the racial, social, and gender inequities of today will be perpetuated into the future.
 
This is because those who make the most money after university are generally those who come from fairly wealthy families. This has not been and is not always the case, but data show that at the beginning of the 21st century it is usually true. This is the great flaw in measuring the success of a school by the earning potential of its graduates or even by its graduation rate. It is not really the school that made the difference.
 
The best way to overcome the inequity of higher education, according to the authors, is to build into the curricula the four goals mentioned above. By doing this we are educating the next generation to adopt values that lead to equity in society. To achieve these goals, we must focus on the individual student. This demands lower student faculty ratios, caring faculty, and a strong student development program.
 
“By working to enhance students’ spiritual and moral growth, we can help create a new generation who are more caring, more globally aware, and more committed to social justice than previous generations, while also enabling students to respond to the many stresses and tensions of our rapidly changing society with a greater sense of equanimity.”
 
I am happy to be a part of an institution that has done this from its inception 91 years ago.
 
Providence is not the only school like this. There are hundreds of schools around the world that stress character development, leadership, civic responsibility (volunteerism), and spirituality. We might tend to define these goals differently than the authors, but the qualities they name are common to these many schools.
 
The article, which I read here, was a real inspiration to me as Providence approaches another school year. May the tradition of Christian Higher Education continue in the face of all sorts of obstacles!
 
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