President Richard M. Joel: ‘University Must be About Not Just Making a Living But Building a Life’

Rising tuitions, stagnant job markets and bleak economic realities have finally compelled universities and their students to ask some tough questions: Is a college education worth it? Does a college degree actually offer value beyond an impressive wall ornament? And as universities across the nation carry on their struggles to stay afloat, why even bother?

President Richard Joel

President Richard M. Joel

Years ago, I had the honor of taking part in a meeting at the White House convening educational leaders for an open discussion with then President George W. Bush. At one point, the President remarked that “the purpose of higher education is to prepare our children to compete in the global economy.” I mustered the courage to respectfully respond: “Mr. President — at Yeshiva University, we take a slightly different view. We believe the purpose of education is to ennoble and enable our students.” “Ennoble and enable,” he said, smiling. “I like that.”

In many ways, the American university is in danger of losing its soul. Now we must ask ourselves: Long after students forget how to determine the number of valence electrons in a Palladium atom or how exactly to apply the law of diminishing returns, which ideas and ideals will stand the test of time and inform the remainder of their adult existence? Read the rest of this entry…

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