Is the Future of Traditional College ‘Dim’?

Update: (Related to this posting) Philadelphia Inquirer 09/18/2011  Debt soaring with tuition

Lebanon, NH – The former surgeon general (of the United States), C. Everett Koop, gave $50,000 to Lebanon College, but the donation itself is almost less important than why he made it.

 “I think there’s a great future for places like Lebanon College, and a dim future for traditional liberal arts colleges,” Koop said in a brief interview at a reception in his honor at the school last night.

 The economy makes a pricey liberal arts education a difficult proposition, and “colleges are getting out of control” with their spending, Koop said.

As written by Alex Hanson Valley News Staff Writer, July 21, 2011

Dr. Koop was our Surgeon General under the Reagan administration. Dr. Koop’s academic and professional experience prior to his service as Surgeon General include, a Dartmouth College undergraduate education, Cornell Medical School and 40 years as a pioneering surgeon at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. He’s still interesting, current and (some might say) controversial as a 95 year old. He lives in Hanover, NH.

Shortly after I read the Valley News article, my daughter tweeted a Forbes article titled Turn Your Kids into Millionaires. The very first suggestion the article offered was “Beat College Debt.” Here is the argument: The average grad gets out of school with $20,000 of debt. That’s a crushing burden for someone getting—or just hoping to get—an entry-level job. If you can lead your kids to a cheaper university degree you give them a healthy push forward in their financial lives. One strategy: Have your child start at a community college, then transfer to the more prestigious state university. To read the entire Forbes article go here.

As we return to school, I want to remind teachers and school counselors that students do have choices when they leave high school. It’s important to begin this dialogue when high school begins and continue the discussion all four years. As Dr. Ken Gray (Penn State University) says, there are “other ways to win.”

Here are the Gateways students can use as they transition from high school to continued learning experiences after high school:

Post-Secondary Education

Community College

 Business/Technical College

4 Year College or University



Air Force


Coast Guard




Full time permanent jobs

Combination of two or more part-time jobs

Contract services on short term basis

Apprenticeship & Internship

On-the-job training in trades and skilled occupations

Carefully monitored work experiences with intentional learning goals


Self-Employment & Entrepreneurship

Start a business

 Buy a business

 Take on a franchise

 Consult or freelance

The suggested discussion with students should not be restricted to Gateways but also include goal setting (based on skills, ability, interests), and connecting goals for the future to a plan that has a high probability of success.

Continued from the Valley News article:

Still sharp at 95, Koop told the crowd of around 50 people, “I think Lebanon College has a bright future.  I’d like to be involved with you because I think what I do here … is a lot more important than a lot of the other things I can do,” he said. “When you’re 95, you can’t make a lot of plans very far into the future. So use me while you have me.”

When surgeon general under President Reagan, Koop made a similar donation and has served as honorary chairman of a capital campaign for the college. He pledged continued support.


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