President's Message | Albright College

President’s Message

Learning to Learn – Higher Education in the 21st Century

We’ve all read the headlines regarding higher education today. From the book “Academically Adrift” published in 2011, to more recent headlines like, “What do College Students Learn? Too Little,” we hear again and again that the return on investment for college is not what it should be.

The data, however, tell us that this is not true. A study by the New York Fed in 2014 showed that the return on college investment has climbed from about 10 percent in the 1970s to 15 percent in the early 2000s, and has remained at 15 percent, despite rising tuition. If we break out the return on investment by college major, the New York Fed showed that the return on investment varies between 12 to 18 percent for all majors — science, math, English, history, arts and social sciences — offered in most liberal arts schools.

Outcomes from an Albright education demonstrate similar results. In 2016, Mobility Report Cards: The Role of Colleges in Intergenerational Mobility in the U.S., showed that Albright is among top schools nationally for helping students to develop the skills necessary to support a successful career and improvement in socioeconomic status. Albright College graduates more often climb one or two socioeconomic quintiles by 15 years post-graduation.

So, what is it that we do at Albright College that helps our students to succeed in lives and careers in this way? The Albright curriculum has long developed students’ abilities to learn to ask questions, to solve unscripted problems and to create a network of models from different viewpoints to tackle an important issue. From Albright’s interdisciplinary (IDS) courses in the 1970s-2000s, to the Connections and Synthesis courses in today’s curriculum, Albright students develop the ability to learn how to learn.

And as our world rapidly changes, the ability to learn how to learn has never been more important. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 65 percent of jobs do not yet exist. The Frey Osborne Future of Employment Model predicts that 47 percent of current work will be automated by 2033. With the learning skills that Albright graduates develop, they will be ready to thrive in those new jobs and to move beyond a current job, should it become automated.

The Intuit 2020 report projects that by 2020, 40 percent of the US workforce will be self-employed, and by 2027, the majority will be self-employed. Having developed and honed their learning skills, Albright College graduates will be ready to imagine, create and manage their own businesses, and they will have learned the cross-disciplinary skills necessary to be successful.

I have used the learning skills that I developed at Albright throughout my career. From starting my own company to transitioning from a college science professor to a college administrator, I was learning all the way. I remember asking thoughtful questions during my independent research project with Professor Frieda Texter, and I remember being pushed outside of my disciplinary boundaries in my IDS course, “Rebels of the ’60s and ’70s,” with Professor Gary Adlestein. These are experiences that taught me how to learn to learn.

How did Albright teach you? We invite you to share your stories of learning to learn at Albright College with us by following this link.

Jacquelyn S. Fetrow, Ph.D.
President and Professor of Chemistry