Sr. Anne responds to President Obama’s call for a technology-based education

Elysabethe Brown, Editor-in-Chief

On August 23, President Obama shared a plan for higher education at Lackawanna College, where he emphasized supporting technical schools, minimizing debt, and creating a new rating system for colleges.

Sr. Anne Munley, I.H.M., Ph.D., president of Marywood University, was in the audience listening to the President lay out his education plan.

“I applaud the efforts of the president,” she said regarding his efforts to make higher education more affordable.

But she disagreed with his overemphasis on technical education. She said she believes a liberal arts education is very important for a broad-based education that will prepare an individual for his or her professional and personal life.

“I just think it’s very important to realize that there is a broad range of diversity in higher education in this country, and that’s one of the things that makes higher education in the United States the envy of the world,” she said.

In his speech, President Obama also said that he would like colleges and universities to become more accessible to students. To achieve this goal, he plans to create a new rating system, encourage innovation, and provide better ways for students to manage debt.

According to Sr. Anne, the administration has worked hard, especially since the economic downturn in 2008, to help students afford to study at Marywood.

Sr. Anne explained that last year at this time, the institutional aid was reaching $34 million.

In addition to helping students afford tuition, Marywood has also placed a great deal of emphasis on outcomes, ensuring that graduates will be successful in their chosen fields.

President Obama also emphasized that students who come out of college with less debt are better able to move forward with their lives, starting families and buying homes at a faster rate than those with higher debt.

Christian DiGregorio, director of university admissions, agreed that a college education not only helps students move forward with their lives, but also keeps the economy strong. “In the long run [higher education] keeps the economy moving,”he said.

Sr. Anne said that innovations, like the new Learning Commons, will provide students with an opportunity to experience new, changing technologies that they may encounter in industry; however, Marywood’s traditional liberal arts background will ensure students are well-rounded professionals and citizens.

“Technology is going to continue to change. Technology is a tool. But the capacity of an individual to adapt to changing needs, which goes back [to] … what is a quality education that is needed for a person to analyze and seek relationships and react to the common good. That is broader than the technical piece,” said Sr. Anne.

President Obama also praised advances in online and technology-based education as way to master skills while saving time and money.

“If you can show competency, if you know your subject matter … it shouldn’t matter how many hours in a classroom you work. The question is do you know the subject? And if you can accelerate it, you should be able to save money doing it,” he said.

Sr. Anne argued that Marywood is special in the way that it emphasizes relationships and the role they play in a student’s learning experience.

“We have such a fine faculty-student ratio,” said Sr. Anne. “Our students really get a chance to interact with faculty, and that human dimension, I think, is very important to the education process in a school like Marywood.”

DiGregorio shared Sr. Anne’s sentiment, saying that technology-based schools are a very “mechanical approach” and that is not what Marywood is about.

“I think students are not only looking for a quality education that is affordable, but also fulfillment and memorable experiences,” he said.

“[A college education] is not just about getting a degree,” he added.

Sr. Anne said that accessibility, affordability, and outcomes have long been goals at Marywood, but added that educating a person to be a good citizen in an interdependent world is equally as important as preparing him or her for a profession.

“We have a mission here, and our mission is about helping students to realize their dreams,” she said.