The Idea of an Essay, Volume 4

92 The Idea of an Essay: Volume 4 Prices and Patriotism: Restoring Lost Value Peter Kennel In the article “The Real Value of Higher Education,” Tom Ross, president of the University of North Carolina System, calls North Carolina and the nation as a whole to invest more time, thought, and resources in higher education. Ross asserts that America is becoming too focused on the professional world and has lost sight of the true value of education (2). While acknowledging the importance of the professional sphere, he contends that focusing more on education would lead to far-reaching benefits to society and the economy. To support his claim, Ross attributes a number of specific benefits to universities, claiming that they have historically been regarded as “places of big discoveries and bigger dreams,” places where America has solved many of its most difficult problems, and places where “generations of students have learned to think for themselves and how to work collaboratively with others” (2-3). Ross then contrasts this view of universities with how he claims America views them today. He states that they are increasingly regarded as “factories” where people are trained as efficiently as possible to enter the workforce (3). Ross opposes this new definition of higher education with a warning that too much focus on the workforce and extreme operational efficiency puts the benefits he has attributed to the former definition at risk. He asserts that America has been great because its systemof higher education “has been the best in the world,” claiming that universities have been foundational to America’s “democratic society” by developing the talents of communication and critical thought (4). Continuing from this claim, Ross warns that America is losing this commitment to higher education and now spends about 30% less per college or university student that it did 25 years ago (4). He claims that America is “beginning to pay the price” of defunding