Liberal Education Value and Affordability

“Value” and the Value of College Education

In Tuesday’s Washington Post, columnist Richard Cohen wrote about the recent fusillade of news stories asking whether college education is worth the cost: “Almost all these stories . . . answer with a money sign ($) but almost never in terms of education—knowledge, wisdom and, if I may be so bold, the pursuit of happiness.”

Cohen is right on point here. The true purpose of higher education does not fit into the economic categories that dominate modern thought. Higher education seeks to help people become free and independent thinkers, capable of judging for themselves what is important in life. This is the freedom we need to pursue happiness rationally. Without it, either we pursue someone else’s notion of happiness, or we chase our own desires erratically.

Colleges should provide programs that they believe will best prepare students for that freedom. At St. John’s, our best judgment is that our extraordinary four-year program based on great books provides this access.

Cohen puts a pithy point on the “value” issue when he writes “I value my education, but I cannot put a value on it.” That’s because a real education—one that makes you free to pursue happiness—is quite literally priceless.