For anyone following the Republican presidential race, this year has already been a long and interesting struggle for supremacy. With the field narrowed down to former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, former Sen. Rick Santorum, and (technically, still) former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich and former Rep. Ron Paul, the months leading up to the August convention promise to provide an abundance of facts, opinions, promises and more than a few outrageous sound bites.
Each candidate has already stuck his foot in his mouth at least once. Romney “like[s] being able to fire people,” and Gingrich blamed his adulterous affairs partly on “how passionately [he] felt about the country.”
While these slips can be funny, some are disturbing and thought-provoking. This includes Santorum’s assertion that President Barack Obama is a “snob” for stating that every person should go to college. In the interest of full disclosure, it should be noted that Obama specifically promoted enrollment in “at least one year of higher education or job training.”
In the face of the inevitable and understandable backlash, much has been said about different paths to higher education. Trade school, community college and continuing education have all been mentioned as practical options for different groups of people — which is absolutely true.
I think Radford University is one of the best examples of how a traditional four-year university can effectively serve a number of different people seeking higher education — without resorting to snobbery or elitism.
For one thing, RU has a considerable number of community college transfer students, as well as adult students pursuing both undergraduate and graduate degrees. Of the approximately 9,000 students pursuing a degree in fall 2011′s head count, roughly 10% were over the age of 26, according to the university’s 2010-2011 fact book.
This sort of adult enrollment is exciting and encouraging to see. The people who enroll here are truly investing in their careers by committing to continuing their education. I feel like their choice of RU confirms my own: if an experienced adult trusts the university to further their education, I can probably trust it, too.
Even among first-time freshmen, there is considerable educational diversity. Just in my first semester here, I have met Governor’s School alumni, early high-school graduates, and even people who earned their two-year associate degree during high school. Most of them chose RU not only because of a specific degree or program, but because the school was willing to accept their transfer credits, making their college education easier, faster and cheaper than it would have been elsewhere.
RU is also committed to providing practical training for a wide variety of careers. Nursing students do extensive work for their clinicals and simulations. Those in the special education K-12 major do their blocking and student teaching in elementary, middle and high schools so that they can, in fact, teach students in K-12. ESHE majors spend countless hours in the gym, working out activities and techniques that will promote fitness and health. Any student, with any major, can truly begin to practice their craft.
Santorum has already been roundly criticized for characterizing a college education as snobby and superfluous, but we Highlanders know that our education is honest and useful. It doesn’t make us snobs, but it should make us proud.