In praise of non-elite institutions

Dr. Katherine Maloney
Professor of Chemistry at Point Loma Nazarene University in CA

This spring, images of Hollywood stars ducking out of courtrooms accompanied astounding details of an admissions scandal that implicated several elite educational institutions. Some readers were horrified at the revelations while others categorized the pay-to-play schemes as part of a larger culture of corruption – why should higher education be immune? Whether you were surprised or not by the complicated details, it was difficult not to be disgusted. But Katherine Maloney, a graduate of Pacific Lutheran University who now teaches chemistry at Point Loma Nazarene University, had a slightly different response.

The scandal prompted Maloney to reflect on the transformative effects of education, including and perhaps especially at non-elite institutions. Maloney lamented that:

In all the conversations about who is and is not worthy of an elite education, I worry that we are reinforcing the deeply flawed assumption that drove these parents’ actions. Namely, that an elite education is the only one worth having. On the contrary, hundreds, if not thousands, of wonderful nonselective colleges and universities, staffed with enthusiastic faculty at the top of their craft, are ready to welcome students and give them an excellent education.

Katherine Maloney, “In Praise of a Nonelite Education” in Inside Higher Ed, May 2019.

Maloney goes on to share how her own career has included teaching at both elite/highly selective and less-selective institutions. In both types of institutional settings, she finds talented, smart students and colleagues devoted to teaching. We need her reminder that: “There are many wonderful nonselective colleges and universities eager to meet students where they are and give them an excellent education.”

If you need a break from distressing news, spend a few minutes with Maloney’s piece, and please offer your own observations by commenting below. Surely her obvious commitment to excellent teaching and her wise insights are due in no small part to the fact that she is the product of one NetVUE school and now teaches at another!

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