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Thinking Outside the Classroom

Heated debates and op-eds concerning the cost versus value of our higher education system in the United States clutter our news outlets, which isn’t too surprising considering national student loan deficit recently reaching over one trillion dollars. Universities are under more pressure than ever to make sure that they’re providing true value to their students without putting their students in overwhelming debt. So how do schools compromise if they need to add more value without increasing tuition?

According to Pitt Business’s Associate Dean, Audrey Murrell, universities don’t need to find compromise in the classroom, but focus more attention on student development in the co-curricular space. Dean Murrell explains there is a largely untapped source of career and professional development in the co-curricular space in higher education. Despite a bachelor’s degree becoming a requirement for more and more jobs, the degree doesn’t mean college grads learned all the necessary workforce skills inside the classroom. An outside the classroom curriculum provides students with the opportunity to apply the skills they’ve learned inside the classroom to work outside the classroom, thus becoming more prepared for the entry-level workforce.

Using a competency-based approach to an outside the classroom curriculum, just as Pitt Business does on Suitable, gives students additional context to what professional skills they are building and how that will apply to their future careers. This outside the classroom development has a positive impact on more than building professional skills—it’s been linked to increased overall GPA and positive self-image, as well. Dean Murrell asserts that educators must broaden their perspectives on how and where meaningful learning takes place. Perhaps it’s time for more deans to think outside the classroom.

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