Degrees of Diversity: Can Higher Education Bridge the Cultural Gap?

Author : Alisha | August 24, 2023

“What constitutes higher education?” This question might appear straightforward. If you were to survey 10 individuals, chances are, at least nine would respond with, ‘it involves attending college’.

However, the matter isn't quite as straightforward as that. Certainly, the conventional notion of higher education entails dedicating four years usually between the ages of 18 and 22 immersed in classrooms, dormitories, and picturesque campuses. Nevertheless, the notion of postsecondary education has undergone substantial transformation in recent times, encompassing a broader spectrum of activities within its ambit.

Hence, the question remains: What truly defines higher education, and what objectives does it serve?

Let's get started!

What is Higher Education?

What image does the word "higher education" conjure up for you when you read or hear it?

Higher education is the level of education that comes after secondary education (generally high school or its equivalent) and normally occurs in universities, colleges, or other institutions of higher learning. It is distinguished by greater in-depth and specialized training in a variety of academic, professional, and vocational domains. Degrees including bachelor's, master's, doctorate, and professional degrees are available through higher education programs.

Kings Research projects that the global higher education market will reach a revenue of approximately USD 860.11 billion by 2030.

What Rewards Does Higher Education Offer?

Beyond the attainment of information and qualifications, higher education offers a wide range of advantages. Outlined below are several key benefits:

  • Advanced Knowledge and Expertise:

Higher education enables individuals to develop in-depth knowledge and competence in particular subjects of study, enabling them to become subject matter experts. For those interested in pursuing careers that demand specialized knowledge, research, and innovation, this skill is essential.

  • Critical Thinking and Problem-Solving:

Learning critical thinking techniques helps people analyze complex problems, assess the evidence, and come up with well-thought-out answers. Employers strongly value these skills because they are useful in many areas of life.

  • Personal Growth and Development:

Higher education's difficulties and experiences help people mature personally and build strong senses of self-control, time management, and resilience. They gain the ability to handle pressure, manage their obligations, and adjust to various situations.

  • Enhanced Communication Skills:

Effective communication in higher education is frequently emphasized, both verbally and in writing. Graduates are better able to articulate their thoughts and communicate them clearly, as well as participate in insightful discussions.

  • Networking Opportunities:

Institutions of higher learning offer a forum for students to interact with peers, teachers, and experts in their disciplines. These relationships may result in beneficial networking opportunities, internships, and professional promotions.

  • Better Job Opportunities:

Institutions of higher learning offer a forum for students to interact with peers, teachers, and experts in their disciplines. These relationships may result in beneficial networking opportunities, internships, and professional promotions.

  • Contribution to Society:

People with higher education are more equipped to contribute to society. Graduates frequently become community leaders, activists, and change-makers who promote favorable social, economic, and cultural reforms.

What is the True Aim of Higher Education?

People pursue education for a variety of reasons and have varying expectations of their efforts. Even while that is typically true, there is a commonality that runs through this huge array of choices: economic mobility.

One major goal most individuals have is finding good, stable, and secure employment.

A 2018 Strada-Gallup survey revealed that 58% of college students primarily attend for gainful employment, with the figure rising to 72% among graduate students. In a 2014 Gallup poll with the Lumina Foundation, 95% of American students believed higher education's purpose is to secure a well-paying job.

This perspective isn't confined to the US. A 2020 study across Denmark, England, Germany, Ireland, Poland, and Spain found that undergraduates primarily pursue higher education to prepare for the job market.

This focus on vocational outcomes isn't new. The prestigious Harvard College, for example, was established partly to train clergy, reflecting vocational goals in early American higher education.

Over the past two generations, the emphasis on employment has intensified. In 1967, only 42% of public university students and 44% of private university students considered money essential; these figures rose to 82% and 80% respectively by 2013, according to data from UCLA's freshman survey.

During this period, students aiming for financial prosperity through higher education grew by 40%. This trend is aligned to the shift in majors, moving from humanities to more practical fields like business and STEM. This transition signifies a greater desire for economic returns on educational investments, forming an interconnected relationship.

Mapping American Higher Education's Story

By all metrics, American higher education stands as a substantial undertaking.

In fall 2019, American higher education welcomed a substantial 19.6 million students, with 16.6 million pursuing undergraduate degrees. This vast student body was distributed among approximately 4,000 degree-granting institutions, encompassing various public and private, two-year and four-year colleges.

Notably, over 1,700 private and 600 public four-year colleges exist, accompanied by 936 public community colleges. Expanding the scope to include postsecondary options like vocational schools, apprenticeships, MOOCs, and boot camps reveals a broader landscape.

While an exact count is elusive, an estimated 5,000 non-degree-granting institutions offer credentials beyond degrees, a number likely growing due to the surge in nontraditional education providers.

About 9,000 postsecondary alternatives are available to high school graduates overall. This range is highlighted in a report by Credential Engine that lists an astounding 967,734 different US educational qualifications.

In addition to 48,919 secondary school diplomas, these include 359,713 degrees and certificates, 9,390 MOOC-based online credentials, and 549,712 non-academic badges and licenses.

This abundance makes it difficult for hiring managers to stay up to date with changing qualifications, which leads to a reliance on traditional schooling. With 10% of students over 40 years of age and 74% older than 25, the notion of higher education in today's society includes people of all ages and geographies.

Learning takes place both on-campus and online, producing a range of certificates over different time periods.

Final Chapter of Higher Education

Higher education is a potent tool for individual development, intellectual growth, and societal advancement. It provides people with the abilities and information required to excel in their chosen industries and have a good influence on the world. Higher education will continue to be a beacon of enlightenment and empowerment in a constantly changing world as long as the fundamental ideals of critical thinking, creativity, and the pursuit of knowledge are upheld.

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