By DAVID A. WILSON
University of Missouri System President Tim Wolfe followed up a visit to California Middle School with a stop at the California City Hall to speak to several local business and community leaders about education concerns and workforce development needs.
He said there are two basic questions the university has for Missouri citizens. "What are we doing right and what are we doing wrong?"
Wolfe explained that his visits on behalf of higher education have been to middle schools because that is a point in life where young people start thinking about what they will do after high school and begin planning for the future. He wants to challenge the young people to do their best. Part of that is for them to get a solid foundation to build on.
In a broader sense, Wolfe wants to push the part of the system mission which calls for reaching out to all six million Missourians, not just the 75,000 students enrolled at the four campuses.
A part of this effort involves Internet-based studies - which are in essence self-based, since the students can work at their own rate. The adoption of technology allows flexibility in schedules, reduces pressure on classrooms and, for some students, gives better results.
At the same time, the University of Missouri System is a residential model which is designed for face-to-face teaching. Some of the universities are 100 percent online. That is not what is planned for Missouri.
"Technology is what we use. It's not the business model," said Wolfe.
He said the conversation about what to do to prepare for the future must be held with each student, but by the junior and senior years in high school, it is too late.
Students really need to set a pattern of work from the beginning of high school, one they can continue into college.
"I firmly believe that a college education is a person's greatest opportunity for a successful life," Wolfe said. "By any measure - income, prosperity, health - a college education has a profound effect on an individual, which in turn can provide a tremendous boost to our communities, culture and state as a whole."
Aside from the financial advantages, Wolfe also said that a college education allows students to discover their talents, hone their strengths, think creatively and strategically, and learn to work in teams. All of these are skills needed in today's workforce, regardless of the job.