St. Mary's College unfairly maligned

I was shocked by what Anne Neal wrote about St. Mary's College in a recent commentary ("Campus cautionary tale," May 30). This is a school with a wonderful community environment.

Ms. Neal writes that "higher education is a bloated wastrel," part of a bubble that's about to burst, and she implies private funding is needed. Maybe she should have talked about a real bubble, like rising student loan debt.

She claims that tuition at St. Mary's has been rising for a decade, forgetting that it was frozen this year and for years to come out of the board of trustees concern for students.

Yes, austerity is coming to St. Mary's — but it's coming everywhere else, too, thanks to the sequester put in place by both political parties.

Ms. Neal claims that St. Mary's has the "highest tuition of any public university in Maryland" when this is actually incorrect. The University of Maryland is more expensive, according to College Prowler.

The most offensive part of the article was Ms. Neal's statement that students get little from an education at St. Mary's, and that one can "graduate without exposure to literature, American history or government, foreign language, or composition" under the school's "anything goes" educational policy.

These are all falsehoods. Students are required to take a core curriculum covering all the areas she noted. They do choose a seminar their first year, but those are classes that help lay the groundwork for later in their education.

There is no policy of "anything goes" but rather one that makes students think critically and expose themselves to subjects they otherwise might not have known about. St. Mary's President Joseph Urgo's passionate op-ed earlier this year ("Why we need the liberal arts," March 3) argued strongly for the importance of the liberal arts in higher education.

While a college education is becoming more expensive, St. Mary's is cheaper than many private universities. We don't need Ms. Neal, who heads an organization whose board members belong to the privileged few, telling us to privatize education. Instead we should be doing the opposite: Making education free and available to everyone, paid for with public funds, so that student debt doesn't continue to rise.

Burkely Hermann, Towson

The writer is a member of the St. Mary's College of Maryland Class of 2016.

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