HSEM2321H: What is College For? Exploring the Purpose and Value of American Higher Education

3 CreditsHonorsBiological SciencesCivic Life and EthicsTopics Course

Recent poll data suggests that many Americans are questioning the value of higher education. For example, 2/3 of those surveyed stated that colleges are stuck in the past and not meeting the needs of today’s students. What is the purpose of college? Should a 4-year degree be accessible to all? Does a college education lead to attaining the “good life?” In this interactive honors seminar, we will address these questions and more. Students will have the opportunity to examine their own objectives as it relates to pursuing higher education and explore important issues impacting higher education (e.g., student debt, access, and admissions). Students will engage in regular reading, writing, and discussion around critical issues in higher education. Small group interaction, presentations, media analysis (e.g., podcasts, films), and ongoing reflection will be features of this seminar. The course will be organized around three main units, each guided by a specific question that we will aim to address. Unit 1 will address the question “What is the history of higher education, and what are the reasons for pursuing a degree? Unit II explores: “What are key current topics in higher education that deserve exploration?” As a part of this unit, we will discuss trends and issues that address the mission of higher education, especially post-pandemic. Unit III will examine the question, “How do your own experiences in college align with your own personal and professional objectives?”

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