Op-Eds Opinion

The Dilemma Facing Private Colleges

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, roughly 21.8 million students attend American colleges and universities. That is a 6.5 million increase from statistics gathered at the turn of the new millennium.

Tyler Leahy
Staff Writer




leahyAccording to the National Center for Education Statistics, roughly 21.8 million students attend American colleges and universities. That is a 6.5 million increase from statistics gathered at the turn of the new millennium.

This means that in recent memory, 21.8 million potential college students asked themselves a daunting question: what college or university is right for me?

Nestled within this mammoth decision lies a crucial component to consider. Each potential student must contemplate whether a public or private education better serves their individual needs. Ultimately, many students choose to attend small private schools to experience an advantageous professor-to-student ratio, as well as the welcoming atmosphere of a tight-knit college campus.

Since its inception in 1885, Springfield College has maintained the tradition of a tight-knit community. The school has consistently upheld its mission of “educating the whole person — spirit, mind, and body — for leadership in service to others.” Much of the appeal to Springfield College and its small, private college contemporaries around the country can be summarized by Springfield College’s mission alone.

Small, private schools are loved by their students for their commitment to serving people. Students do not feel lost amongst throes of peers as they may at a large-population university. They can sense the campus community goal of intellectual and cultural excellence.

Students can typically sense this common goal, although it raises an important question. Have small, private schools around the country consistently maintained their commitment to achieving the goal of intellectual and cultural excellence? Perhaps this very ethic has been compromised.

It can be argued that not all private, Division III institutions across the U.S. have kept their sights on this everyday goal. Most may not have turned a blind eye to the issue, but some have blinked and momentarily forgotten what they are trying to achieve. While Springfield College is not one of these institutions, it is important for all small, private schools to sustain their integrity on the issue.

Every year college freshmen pay top-dollar figures to reap the benefits of a low-population, independent school — with qualified reason. Most of these students are thoroughly pleased with the education they receive. However, many enter a sullen state of mind when they consider the objective of intellectual and cultural excellence outside of the classroom.

The truth is, students at some private schools (and some public, too) in all corners of the United States are fighting an uphill battle when it comes to intellectual and cultural excellence in the 21st century. Excellence is something that has no definitive endpoint. Rather, it is a continuum that must constantly be upheld. Any ignorance by students, faculty, administration and employees on a college campus can put this continuum in jeopardy.

After all, a college community is a place in which all of its people must recognize themselves as a community in order to achieve collective excellence. If a significant number of community members express ulterior motives, excellence in the fairest and truest nature will never be fulfilled.

Intellectual and cultural excellence in the academic setting is contingent upon beneficial free speech and innovation — including that which comes from the student body. While this may seem a no-brainer, innumerable American schools have allowed a repugnant conflict of interest to trump the ultimate goal of greatness.

These colleges have allowed reputation and image to govern the culture, outweighing the democracy that should be at the root of all education. Righteous and egalitarian free thought has been implicitly discouraged to the point where it has become counterculture. Positive change cannot coexist with hushed, muffled or suffocated free speech. It can only be disrupted by the sweeping of secrets under the rug, or the relegation of morals as of secondary importance — tossed aside at the expense of personal gain.

While Springfield College has kept its integrity intact, students have in some instances found themselves disappointed with some departments and services on campus. I have heard students voice this frustration at times, and while not frequent, it is something to be mindful of. I too have felt this frustration on occasion, despite an overall very pleasant experience as a member of the college community.

Springfield College is not like schools that have faltered in recent years; with that said, it is pertinent that all people on campus maintain a commitment to serving the best interest of the students

Unfortunately, most college students on other college campuses  have failed to recognize the issue of their devolving role as perhaps the most important group in the successful operation of a school.  Others have, but simply do not care enough to fight for change, following a herd of sheepishness that has become the norm. Some recognize the problem at hand, yet fear that acting as a lone wolf, they cannot single-handedly alter the wrongdoings of an entire institution. This is especially wretched, as many hoping to inspire positive change are discouraged by sneering guffaws from others.

Springfield College community, do not ever become a group that has been lost like many others in the complexity of our modern times. In the words of the ancient Greek fabulist Aesop, “He that always gives way to others will end in having no principles of his own.”

Never forget that there is a common goal for incessant intellectual and cultural excellence on a college campus. A greater good can and must be achieved. Never neglect to recognize those who endanger this moral, no matter the scale at which their injustice takes place. Remember that a community must be built on a foundation of equality. Remember that a constructive argument left unsaid is a losing argument.

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