Student evaluates costs, benefits of general education

Dear Editor,

 I’m responding to Professor Luttmann’s letter to the editor.

I’d like to start with the differences between a trade school and a university.  For starters, where did you earn your doctorate degree?  It surely was not a trade school.  Our society does not place equal value on degrees from a trade school and a university regardless of the quality of education from each.  I would have loved the option of going to a trade school, but when was the last time you saw a quality job listing that said “4 year degree or trade school degree”? 

Next, you’re asking faculty to “encourage students to look at the positive side of their GE experiences.” Clearly that implies there’s a negative side.  Surely there must be a problem if my peers are frequently frustrated with their GE classes.

You hand out a document saying “most students . . . go to college . . . to get a better job and make more money.  Nothing wrong with that.”  That’s pretty close; we’re seeking careers, not jobs, though.  Do you know what most employers are looking for?  They’re looking for knowledge, skills, and abilities, and not a “liberal arts education.”  Nobody knows what that really means.  If SSU is so dedicated to being a unique “liberal arts school,” maybe the university needs to differentiate itself from other CSUs so students seeking careers know to go somewhere else.  You are right; we are not cogs in an economic machine.  We are capable of learning so much more than the GE classes SSU offers.

Even though they are so close to situation, academia professionals seem to forget the immense increase in the cost of college over the last few decades.  Higher education can no longer just be measured in the number of life lessons learned, but also in the return on investment.  My Baby Boomer coworkers tell me of times when their university classes were $25 per unit.  Even adjusted for inflation that isn’t close to what students are forced to pay now for inferior education.  Everybody should know that national student debt is now higher than national credit card debt ($1.03 billion Vs. $0.85 billion).  When has that ever happened in the USA?  Never.

It should be clear that I have no problem with the university requiring a few upper and lower division GE classes.  However, the bottom line about SSU’s GE classes is that they’re far too often a complete waste of time.

If you’re to only remember one sentence from this response, be it this: The biggest problem I see here is the fact that students are submitting valid complaints about their education and your response is simply that we’re too naïve to know any better.

Stephen Kirschenamnn

SSU B.S. Business Admin 2011

SSU MBA 2013