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The value of a university education

Author: Dr. Gary Waite

Posted on Nov 21, 2023

Category: UNB Saint John , UNB Fredericton

The letter below is from UNB Professor Emeritus, Gary Waite. It was shared with UNB and published in the Telegraph Journal on Nov. 17.

In a recent letter to the editor, a writer asks, “Why does N.B. still subsidize universities?” In his rant, the writer argues universities are of little value in New Brunswick. Relying on a couple of anecdotes and his personal impression, he gets just about everything wrong on details such as tuition (which is half of what he quotes for domestic students) or admission requirements.

We have seen the results of such disparagement of education and expertise in the rise of irrational conspiracy theories, vaccine denial, and repudiation of the clear science on climate change, among other disturbing developments.

Every objective study (such as a piece in The Atlantic recently) has revealed the ongoing value of university education, including in the liberal arts. Moreover, New Brunswick’s universities offer co-op and internship programs that combine classroom teaching with experiential learning, often in the workplace. The writer’s claim that universities don’t do job training is nothing but a tired, old myth.

Along with the invaluable knowledge base and skills specific to each discipline, university students also develop the so-called “soft skills” of problem-solving, communication, and critical thinking. These are increasingly valued by employers who appreciate the ability to adapt to new challenges and learn new skills. In fact, the process of learning, of learning how to learn, is even more valuable in a fast-changing world.

Given what’s happening in the world right now, don’t we want citizens who are able to think through complex problems? Who can comprehend the science behind the global climate crisis? Who are capable of understanding the historical roots of current conflicts? Who are able to craft persuasive arguments based on thorough and appropriate research?

Such ill-informed diatribes are examples of why we need more, not less, support for university education in New Brunswick.