Does College Make a Difference? Long-Term Changes in Activities and Attitudes

Does College Make a Difference? Long-Term Changes in Activities and Attitudes

Does College Make a Difference? Long-Term Changes in Activities and Attitudes

Does College Make a Difference? Long-Term Changes in Activities and Attitudes

Synopsis

This volume comprehensively examines the long-term effects of higher education on attitudes and activities of a large, nationally representative sample of high school students who graduated in 1972. The authors hold that what people want from higher education depends on core American values. The authors question whether colleges foster new attitudes that lead to new types of behavior, or if colleges confer new identities upon students by bestowing certificates and degrees. The chapters give particular attention to the impact of college on career success, expressive individualism, civic commitment, and changes in self-concept. The study is strengthened by its use of data on those high school graduates who did not attend college, and by following high school graduates until they are about 32 years old. The book concludes by examining the significance of the authors' findings for higher education curriculum policy.

Excerpt

America has always had a special relationship with its colleges and universities. They have frequently been considered the crown jewels in our educational system and, until recently, we have supported them with an almost unprecedented public and private generosity. Perhaps much of this generous underwriting of higher education stems from a deeply held cultural belief about what our postsecondary institutions accomplish, and indeed we frequently expect them to accomplish great things. These include, but are certainly not limited to, the facilitation of students' ability to think critically, analytically and reflectively; the development of their value structures and moral sensibilities; the fostering of their personal development and self-identity; and the solidification of their career identity, vocational competence, and attitudes toward work. In addition, a college degree is probably still perceived as the single most important nonascribed or noninherited determinant of middle- and upper-middle-class occupational and economic status in our society.

Yet, it is probably the case that cultural and societal beliefs about what college accomplishes are rarely founded on carefully collected and skillfully analyzed evidence. Consequently, we often form assumptions about the impact of college attendance, the impact of certain experiences and achievements during college, and the impact of attending certain kinds of colleges, for which there may be little or no empirical support. It is to this issue, the documentation of the impacts of college, that the work of Bill Knox, Paul Lindsay, and Mary Kolb speaks powerfully and eloquently. The book they have written, Does College Make a Difference?, is destined to be considered a major contribution to the growing body of research on how college affects students.

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