What Is a College?

Barry Lenson

What Is a College?

collegeThe Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines college this way . . .

“An independent institution of higher learning offering a course of general studies leading to a bachelor's degree; also: a university division offering this.”

That definition sounds wrong to us. It can’t be right. It has omitted a ton of features that colleges have today. If we are trying to be accurate, we better add that a college is a place that . . .

Pokes you, scrutinizes you, tests you, pockets your application fee, then can reject you.

Implies that it can raise your status if you get in.

Sells nice-looking window stickers that your parents can put on their cars.

Gives you preferential treatment
if your parents or an older sibling attended.

Costs a fortune to attend.

Helps connect you to loans that will put you deep in debt.

Cashes your tuition check, then flunks you out.

Lists professors in the catalog who hardly ever set foot in a classroom.

Lists courses in the catalog that are only available once in a while.

Tries to solicit donations from your grandparents, you parent and you – for the rest of your life.

You’re getting the idea.

If you go back to the dictionary definition at the beginning of this post, you’ll see that colleges really ought to be very simple places: institutions where people learn something and earn degrees.

That’s really what colleges are, and what they ought to be. Just when all the other stuff intruded is anybody’s guess – but we wish it would go away.

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