The Future of Education by Kate Ramsdell, Director of College Counseling
When my August issue of The Atlantic arrived, its cover taunted, “Is College Doomed?” Having just made what I hoped would be a long-term career move back to college counseling following a 3-month maternity leave and a yearlong detour in the Dean of Students office, I wondered if I should just pack up my office and cut my losses. As serendipity would have it, a month into my new gig, I found myself sitting across from one of the August issue’s most controversial subjects: a representative from the Minerva Project. Minerva is a newly launched for-profit university backed by, among others, former Nebraska senator Bob Kerrey, Larry Summers, and the Keck Graduate Institute. If you’re interested in reading more, look here.
That Minerva exists as an option in higher education is not enough to upend most U.S. colleges and universities. However, the meeting got me thinking about the ways in which we ask our students to approach their Nobles education and, ultimately, their college searches.
What Minerva and its founders are challenging us to think about is this idea: traditional colleges and universities are not changing quickly enough to produce graduates with meaningful skills for the workplaces of the future. Minerva is committed to building a curriculum that does so, and to measuring every facet of the process and outcome so they can guarantee that by the time you graduate, your tuition will have secured more than what they see has become so much of the current American college experience: four years of football games, lecture classes with 300 of your closest friends, and acres of well-kept buildings and grassy quads. Not to mention the cost, which I have been warned will balloon to $100K per year by the time my own sons are of college age.
Nobles strikes a remarkable balance when it comes to preparing our students for whatever their futures may hold. We offer a variety of rigorous learning experiences that challenge our students in different ways – some in traditional seminar-style classrooms and labs, others on our performing arts stages and athletic fields, yet others at dozens of community service sites in the greater Boston area, and even further afield through the global experiential learning and travel opportunities we provide. Indeed, Nobles was also an early member of Global Online Academy (GOA), a consortium of independent schools committed to doing some of what Minerva is saying we should: pushing ourselves to think beyond the traditional constructs of academe in favor of a global, immersive, and interactive online learning experience.
Here, we know our strong partnerships with GOA and the dozens of other organizations to which our students have access, as well as our deep commitment to a relational pedagogy, will nurture within our graduates the ability to be successful in the world that awaits them beyond our own walls. Whether some of our students decide to add the Minervas of the world to their college lists is to be seen. Quite honestly, I’m excited by that prospect.
What made the summer’s “Is College Doomed?” moment all the more amusing was that it thrust me back almost two decades to my senior year in college. Having just spent my winter term learning “practical” and “career oriented” skills at a landscape architecture firm that, I hoped, would justify my BA in Art History, I eagerly awaited the arrival of my first issue of Landscape Architecture Magazine. As I slid it out of the mailbox in the student union, its pages unfurled in my hands, asking, “Is Landscape Architecture a Dying Profession?” It was at that point I made the very quick decision to change course, and somehow, that traditional, liberal arts education landed me in a career that I can’t imagine leaving any time soon.