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Opinion: Is college for everyone? Part I

In the twenty-first century, Americans are probably more materialistically-oriented than at any time in our history. So, as we try to evaluate the value of a college degree, we tend to ask about the monetary benefits of spending four or more years in higher education. Surveys indicate that many people think that the cost-benefit outcome is less than impressive. But it wasn’t always that way, and people have valued a college education for different reasons, depending on social conditions

Moral education

During colonial times, there were no secondary schools. So, some students who attended the first colleges to be established were as young as 14 or 15. These youngsters took courses that were preparatory to college-level study, and it was assumed that they’d continue on to their higher-education studies when they were ready.

These colonial colleges were usually affiliated with the major churches of the time. Harvard, the oldest American college, was founded in 1636 primarily as a Puritan/Congregational seminary. Some of the others, founded before our Declaration of Independence, are now numbered among the eight “Ivy League” colleges (e.g., Brown, Columbia, Dartmouth, Princeton, University of Pennsylvania, and Yale).


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