Knapp discusses challenges of higher education

University President Steven Knapp spoke about higher education at the Economic Club of Washington, D.C. Wednesday. Elizabeth Lane | Hatchet Photographer
University President Steven Knapp spoke about higher education at the Economic Club of Washington, D.C. Wednesday. Elizabeth Lane | Hatchet Photographer

University President Steven Knapp and two presidents from other D.C.-area universities took the time to share their thoughts on the future of higher education at the Economic Club of Washington, D.C. Wednesday morning.

Knapp, along with Georgetown University President John DeGioia and George Mason University President Angel Cabrera, discussed some of the most talked-about issues in higher education, including college rankings, graduate employment and sexual assault.

Here’s what the three university presidents had to share.

1. Consider all options

In light of the release of new college rankings Wednesday morning, the university presidents spoke on the topics they think prospective students should consider while deciding which institutions to apply to.

Knapp said the U.S. News & World Report college rankings, which came out Wednesday morning, were “one-size-fits-all” and do not accurately reflect the diverse opportunities that universities offer. GW dropped three spots to No. 57 nationally in those rankings.

He said that students thinking about attending college should consider everything about every university they apply to in order to make an informed decision about where to attend.

“Never do anything to affect the rankings that doesn’t make sense to do for its own sake,” Knapp said.

2. Attracting the disadvantaged

Knapp said GW’s shift to becoming test-optional is one way that GW is hoping to draw in students from more diverse socioeconomic backgrounds. He said tests like the SAT offer an unfair advantage to students who can afford to pay for test preparation courses over applicants who can’t spare the money for the practice.

“[SATs] were going to be an equalizer, but now they’ve become an instrument of inequality,” Knapp said.

The group discussed ways to bring in students from low-income and minority students into the university. DeGioia said that Georgetown’s admissions process is need-blind and they try to meet the accepted students’ financial need. GW currently uses a need-aware admissions policy, meaning that an applicant’s financial need is considered during admission decisions.

3. Choosing between passion and employability

The group also discussed how universities struggle to balance providing programs that will help students find jobs right after graduation and having programs students are passionate about, but won’t necessarily guarantee employment for those students.

“This means developing courses that are more market-oriented, that addresses the need of constituents, but not at the expense of preserving those core academic disciplines for the basis of knowledge,” Knapp said.

DeGioia said that another challenge the nation faces is that there are not enough students who graduate from college to meet the market’s workforce demands, saying that 11 million more jobs are created that require a degree than can be filled.

“We don’t have enough higher education,” DeGioia said.

4. Risk management

The group also discussed sexual assault on college campuses, a topic has become a national conversation in recent years. Cabrera said the increase in reported cases of sexual assault aren’t as important as the fact that the cases still occur, adding that every case is unacceptable.

Knapp said the issue is something all university leaders are taking seriously.

“We’re all talking about this in orientation, which is not a subject that would have been talked about 10 years ago,” Knapp said about sexual assault training.

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