In light of the recent Harvard academic scandal in which more than 125 students were caught cheating on their final exam, many major media outlets openly questioned the merits of a modern college education. In a Sept. 6 editorial piece, The Boston Globe claimed that a college education has “become a transaction: a means of earning a degree for your résumé, rather than a place to explore the life of the mind.”
While I must admit that I completely disagreed with The Globe’s piece at first, in retrospect, I think they have a point.
You don’t have to look very hard at the student bodies of most universities to find evidence to support The Globe’s opinion. If you ask students around our own campus why they are in college, chances are most will say something along the lines of “to get a job.”
To further The Globe’s point, many students scrape by in their four years of undergrad by doing the bare minimum. Everyone has that friend who does the smallest amount of work possible, learning very little in the process, and still gets the passing grade.
But these students still graduate and receive the same diploma that the straight-A students do. They will go on to get jobs and enter the workforce. Some will make their way to a corner office, hang their diploma on the wall and boast proudly to their coworkers about their amazing years as an undergrad.
In this sense, a university education has really been reduced to exactly what The Boston Globe suggested: one very expensive line on a résumé.
But as a senior looking back at my time at Ole Miss, I think there is one fundamental thing this editorial failed to take into account when it said that a college education is nothing but a business transaction: the irreplaceable maturing effect that four years of undergrad has on a young adult not just inside a classroom, but outside as well.
While any student who puts real effort into his or her classes certainly “explores the life of the mind” academically, learning from experiences outside of class is just as important.
If you compare the general maturity level of the freshman and senior classes, the difference is obvious. This is not to say that freshmen are dull by any means; seniors simply have three more years of life experience under their belt. And the only way to get that experience is to live it.
Sure, you can spend the same four years between the ages of 18 and 22 in the workforce, and you would still gain a skill set that is valuable to employers. That being said, absolutely nothing can replace an undergraduate degree and the undergraduate experience. The students who choose to cheat and skate by – like the 125 at Harvard – are missing out on half the equation and doing themselves a disservice.
Dishonesty may be punished at the university level by class failure or academic probation, but it is grounds for firing in the real world. The deceitful actions of the few do not represent all college students across the country, nor should they be allowed to tarnish what it means to get an undergraduate degree.
A college education is something that should be prized not simply as a means of getting a better job, but as a journey to stimulate unparalleled growth of the mind, body and soul.
But in the end, what we get out of our four years at Ole Miss is completely up to us.
Lexi Thoman is a senior international studies and Spanish double-major from St. Louis, Mo.
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