Higher education big topic at Rotary meeting

PARKERSBURG – West Liberty University President Robin Capehart believes the wrong things are being given weight and importance in today’s higher education, such as price over value, or class hours over competency.

Capehart, who has been president of West Liberty since 2007, spoke to members of the Parkersburg Rotary Club on Monday at the Blennerhassett Hotel.

He believes discussions regarding higher education have gotten out of focus in recent years.

“We have a tendency to talk more in terms of price and of degrees or credentials. We talk about ‘seat time’ – how long it takes you to get a degree – when the real focus needs to be on the value that students receive when they pay to go to college and get a higher education,” Capehart said.

“I think it’s important that we look at competency instead of time to graduation. So many people enter higher education at different degrees, at different levels and the idea that everyone takes the same number of hours and sits in the seat for the same amount of time comes out with the same education. I think that’s misguided,” he said.

Capehart said he believes another look needs to be taken regarding what makes a “college-educated person.” He doesn’t believe having someone pay money, get information given to them, be tested on that information and receive a degree is the right way to become that.

“You’re supposed to also pick up a broad base of knowledge and certain skills, like creative thinking, problem-solving and those types of things that are vitally important to really creating a college-educated person,” Capehart said.

Capehart said he often uses his iPhone as a prop for explaining what he means.

“Nobody took a class 20 years ago on how to make the iPhone. It was the product of individuals who developed the skill to inquire, to look at problems and to solve problems, have a broad base of knowledge of history and the community,” he said.

“That’s what’s going to take us into the future. The skills that you have right now coming out of college are going to be – in many instances – archaic in two to three generations, if not a generation. I think it’s important that they develop these basic skills, as well,” Capehart said.