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The Prudent Scholar explores the topic of money and higher education. We look at at big picture and small: both the latest news and the nitty-gritty details of college life that might help you save money and get more value from your educational experience.

November 8, 2011

The tougher the instructor, the better the value

There are different ways to get a good education no matter what kind of school you choose (or that chooses you).  One is to seek out the best professors, the ones who will help you become a better thinker and doer. 
Last week, I read about Steven Maranville's suit against Utah Valley University.   A newspaper article never presents all the facts (and neither does a lawsuit), but Maranville's lawyers are describing a dedicated and talented professor booted for challenging his students.  He required teamwork and used the dreaded Socratic method of teaching. 

Maranville's best reviews on Rate My Professor talk of how his class was hard, but prepared the students for the business world. Most jobs require quick thinking. You'll answer questions and work with a team, just like in Maranville's class.

The worst reviews barely make their case. Many are poorly worded and riddled with spelling and grammatical errors. Some of them, granted, are using textspeak, but some reviews read as if a monkey got  stole an IPhone to text his anger to the world.

The Maranville case points, then, to another issue: The importance of the quality of your peers. You can get a good undergraduate education at a school with open admissions. I did. And, some of my peers were inspiring, especially the non-traditional students, who worked long hours at day jobs, but by and large came to class enthused. Others wanted to coast and some of the classes allowed that. Avoid the classes that let you coast. They are a waste of money.

What's the culture of a school? The University of Houston ratings for this one professor are much higher than his rankings at Utah Valley University; this is even considering that some of the UVA students posted poor ratings on his Houston page, which would bring down his average score there.

Don't just get a degree. Get a good education. If you're paying just for a credential, you are not a scholar. You're a customer. Beware of institutions that want to give the people what they want. You deserve better.

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