The current Outlook suggests that a great number of the students who crowd American colleges are deluding themselves in thinking that a college education is worth while for them. They could spend their time better in a more direct preparation for life. Some eastern colleges in limiting enrollment, says the Outlook, are legislating directly against being swamped by people who come to college merely because to do so is to follow the popular cry; but the great majority of less significant universities, continuing to take all that come, do find themselves surrounded by unavoidable embarrassments.
It is evident that the editors of the Outlook have made the not uncommon mistake of confusing general cultural education with professional preparation. These eastern universities which have limited their numbers make no attempt at preparing the undergraduate directly for life, leaving that task for the graduate schools; but unlimited institutions, particularly the great western universities, have adapted themselves, by including professional courses in undergraduate curricula, to the student who cares nothing for his general development. Thus a student who has entered college only because everyone else is doing it, without much purpose of broadening himself culturally, has access to undergraduate courses in law business, agriculture, medicine; and he can spend his four years profitably in preparation for his coming profession. Anything he may learn incidentally of less utilitarian things is, of course, an admirable addition.
Colleges are undoubtedly overcrowded; but so long as certain institutions continue thus to dispense a modicum of culture along with a large amount of professional preparation, the situation should cause more applause than alarm. The entrance of the professional school into undergraduate life is merely another regrettable symptom of the general hurry and impatience of American life.