As we begin the holiday season, a time of thanksgiving for many, even in the midst of trepidation and gloom, thoughtful people will look ahead. Choices regarding college attendance in the spring are more important than ever before. A few months ago, I published an eBook. The Texas A&M University System Chancellor John Sharp wrote the foreword. The eBook, “Considering College,” is available on the university website. The value of the advice increases as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to infect our respiratory systems, and the clear-headedness required to look ahead deliberatively. Many may forgo attending a university away from home, choosing local study at a community college; they are ubiquitous. Studying online, at a place like West Texas A&M University is also an option.
Most importantly, in a time of uncertainty, things that are certain are valuable. I want to share some of the insights I gleaned from the 132 communities I visited a few years back. Questions on your mind as you consider college for spring, as 2020 turns into 2021. It will be here before you know it, and decisions will last a lifetime.
Does it appear that the cost of the education offered is affordable and in line with the kind of job opportunities presented? This is what I refer to as the “Cost and Value” equation of the university experience. I found everywhere that students and families consider community college a low-cost strategy to start a bachelor’s degree. Not all programs, not all universities and not all students are created with the same opportunities, needs and abilities to pay for, and benefit from, a particular course of study at a particular place. Exacerbated by pandemic fueled economic uncertainty facing countless students.
Will the institution be responsive to my aspirations? In McLean, Texas, Superintendent Oscar Muniz, was flexible and responsive in his work. The importance of an organization being flexible and responsive through leadership and dreams is incalculable. No matter the duration of current events, a student’s aspirations will outlive those events. A plan is necessary, and that plan requires “Institutional Flexibility.”
Is there a concern for the practicalities involved in university study and the big ideas of life purpose? “Truthfulness and Transparency” is practiced at Canyon High School. Honesty and expression of concern are invaluable to families and students, whether flying at the treetops or 30,000 feet. Immediate considerations of cost, balanced against long-term ideas and responses to life’s issues, the big ideas, are critical. When COVID-19 passes, and it will, a good decision now will reap long term rewards.
Can I become part of something larger than myself? Creating a sense of community is an important endeavor at any place of study. Some high schools value it. Gruver High School does. People work together to address the challenges of the day. It created in Gruver, Texas a “Field of Dreams.” A big dream should be a part of every student’s future, no matter present circumstances. Looking beyond the prison of circumstances breeds success.
Teaching should be paramount. Does that seem to be the case? In Whiteface, Texas, and its neighbor, Sundown, Texas, I found school leadership, teachers, counselors and students consumed with the idea of good “Teaching.” Teachers understood and valued their role as leaders. Seek a university so inclined.
Does the campus promote the idea of hard, meaningful work? Work in and of itself, the vocation of using one’s hands to feed him or herself, and possibly a family, is a powerfully important concept. At Lubbock ISD, I found the place, “Where the Hand Meets the Mind.” No apologies for useful skills.
Do the people encountered seem to like the place? When thinking about college this spring, ask yourself whether or not the people at the university you plan to attend, including the one you attended in the fall, like the place. “People” are the first purpose of all educational efforts. In the many communities I visited, I found that families and students were very interested in how the people of the university would treat students. This was clearly the case at Cotton Center. People have to love the place.
Is the idea of family in every manifestation important to the University? Families are critical to helping people cope in times of difficulty and challenge. “New Home,” Texas, is a place that treated its students like family in the most positive sense. A good university should do the same. Hopefully, Thanksgiving reminds us of this.
If you have some time of rest as we approach the New Year, I would urge you to think about what is important to you in a place of study. It’s not too late until it’s over.
This little eBook may help https://www.wtamu.online/considering-college.
Walter V. Wendler is President of West Texas A&M University. His weekly columns are available at https://walterwendler.com/