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Symposium Spotlight: Economic Challenges

Posted by on Friday, September 2, 2011 in Events.

“With student loan debt ballooning and the job market sometimes favoring technical skills such as Web development, it can be difficult for some people to imagine spending four years on a campus reading Shakespeare or studying organic chemistry.” (“Four-Year Degree Losing Luster,” by Michael Cass, The Tennessean, August 28, 2011)

“Arum and Roksa [authors of Academically Adrift] say that forty-five per cent of the students showed no significant improvement, and they conclude that ‘American higher education is characterized by limited or no learning for a large proportion of students.'” (“Live and Learn: Why We Have College,” by Louis Menand, New Yorker, June 6, 2011)

“On average, bachelor’s degrees pay off. But a new study confirms that some undergraduate majors pay off a lot more than others. In fact, the difference in earnings potential between one major and another can be more than 300 percent.” (press release, Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, May 24, 2011)

“At college campuses around the world, the humanities are hurting. Students are flocking to majors more closely linked to their career ambitions… And university presidents are worried about the future of subjects once at the heart of a liberal arts education.” (“Colleges Aim to Revive Humanities,” by Tracy Jam, Boston Globe, November 8, 2010)

“[Education is] basically extremely overpriced. People are not getting their money’s worth, objectively, when you do the math. And at the same time it is something that is incredibly intensively believed; there’s this sort of psycho-social component to people taking on these enormous debts when they go to college simply because that’s what everybody’s doing.” (Peter Thiel, founder of PayPal, in an interview with The National Review, January 20, 2011)

With headlines and quotes like these, some students and their families are increasingly questioning the value of higher education. How do these concerns about the value of a post-secondary degree, particularly one in the arts or humanities, affect student expectations about teaching and learning?  How can we ensure that Vanderbilt’s teaching practices lead to student learning that is intellectually rigorous and empowering in a changing economy? These are some of the issues and questions that will guide conversation in the CFT’s 25th anniversary Symposium discussion of “Economic Challenges in Higher Education” led by Cecelia Tichi, William R. Kenan, Jr., Professor of English.  We hope you can attend.

The Symposium will begin at 9:10 with opening remarks by Provost Tim McNamara and CFT Acting Director Derek Bruff, and then each of the three featured faculty panelists – Cecelia Tichi, Cynthia Paschal, and Marshall Eakin – will speak for 10-12 minutes on one of the themes. Faculty, students, and staff are welcome to attend all the sessions or drop in for an hour or two as they are available. The Symposium will be held on the 2nd Floor of The Commons, in rooms 235-237. Let us know if you’ll be attending this event by sending a quick RSVP.

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