Bethel College is more than just a place to study — it’s an important part of the community and the economic success of the county.
That’s the message Bethel College president Perry White told audience members at a Quad County meeting hosted at the college Monday afternoon. The Quad County group includes government officials from Reno, Sedgwick, Butler and Harvey Counties. White spoke about the importance of colleges to communities, and in particular, Bethel College’s impact on Harvey County.
Bethel College was founded in 1887 to address the growing need for higher education in the Newton area. Bethel College is rooted in a Mennonite tradition, but is open to those with other beliefs.
“Our objective at Bethel is to become a destination campus ... for all kinds of students,” White said.
White believes the concept of liberal arts-based higher education still is relevant, and it teaches students critical thinking skills that will help them adapt to the constantly evolving work environment.
“It is our obligation to prepare students for jobs that don’t exist yet,” he said.
The goal isn’t necessarily to teach students all the knowledge they’ll need to know in their career — it’s to teach them how to learn for themselves so they can keep growing throughout their career.
White said the benefits of a traditional liberal arts college include preparing students to compete in today’s global economy; helping to preserve democracy by educating the next generation; and enabling students to live a richer, more fulfilling life. It teaches students to appreciate the sciences and the arts, to respect views other than their own, and prepares them to be “visionary, adaptable” leaders.
“A complete or ‘whole’ education is cross-training for your brain,” White said.
Right now, Bethel College is in a “growth mode,” he said. The campus currently has under 500 students, but is capable of housing about 600. About 40 percent of the students at Bethel come from out of state.
White said rising tuition costs at state universities, along with financial aid available at private institutions, have leveled the playing field in higher education.