Given the declining value of a college degree and the increasing costs, many students today are faced with tough questions about how best to choose an institution of higher learning. The James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal (known as the Pope Center for Higher Education when this piece was printed in 2013) has some solid recommendations in this article:
It may come as a surprise to you, but the biggest single test of whether a college is worth attending is not its ranking, its placement record, or the average salary of its graduates.
It’s whether it treats you like an adult. Don’t expect a college to help you become an intelligent adult and a responsible citizen if it does not treat you like one.
Many colleges and universities will not treat you like an adult—someone who can think and act independently—but instead they will treat you like a child in need of sermonizing and supervision while they severely restrict what you are allowed to say and think.
To begin with, if a college is not unambiguously committed to freedom of thought, and its counterpart, freedom of speech, how can you possibly expect to learn how to think critically—to examine opposing positions and analyze the merits and deficiencies of each?
It is the nature of thought itself that it cannot be subordinated in advance to any ideological position. The human faculty of reason is unfettered by allegiance to anything but the truth itself.
Accordingly, the mark of a true university is intellectual diversity—and yet most universities are remarkable for mind-numbing conformity, for a student body that looks diverse but all believes the same things, where dissenting voices are marginalized or ridiculed.
How are you going to learn to think if your university is opposed to thinking?
Think about that.