We ought not take the University of Portland for granted. The surprise enrollment drop that hit Oregon’s Catholic university this fall should remind us that colleges nationwide are struggling as young people question the wisdom of paying tuition for a broad education when it’s possible to make decent money in the trades.

We encourage good people to become plumbers, truck drivers and carpenters. But we tremble in fear for all of society at the thought of a diminished Catholic academia.

College, we must remember, has never been only about getting into a loftier income bracket. On one level, education creates informed citizens. But on an even higher plane, it’s about engaging with scholarship and thought that was hard-earned over centuries and directed toward the good of the human person and the glory of God.

We want our youths to read Augustine, Aquinas, Shakespeare, James Joyce and Toni Morrison. They should grapple with Adam Smith and Karl Marx. They must be exposed to chemistry and physics. They must study the history of ancient Rome, Greece, India and China. With insight come wisdom and peace.

Without broad education, we risk balkanization that leads only to conflict. Witness the odd and tragic populaces of Russia and North Korea, where knowledge is tightly controlled and education trends toward utilitarianism.

What’s more, if we fail to send our children to college, how will they know the fuller scope of God’s wonders? University of Portland students for decades have had a chance to study in the glorious Pacific Northwest, but also during years in Salzburg, Austria, from where they have visited the great cathedrals of Europe and experienced the milieu from which the music of Bach and Mozart emerged.

The University of Portland is a treasure that has risen to high academic prominence. We wish the new leadership well and urge all to give the school strong backing.