Basically C is Every Programming Language minus the Frills.
For someone new to the world of Programming concepts like Polymorphism, Event Driven programming, Object Oriented Programming just don't make any sense.
Remember that for a long time Computer Science existed inside Mathematics until the hardware technology was brought to the world. So now, you need a way for people to instruct the computer to achieve a certain objective. Most introductory level courses start by teaching how to implement a simple algorithm (like a Fibonacci Sequence or Factorial or whatever) as a computer program. You start with things like loops, conditions, functions, arguments etc. Instead of Interfaces, Classes, Singletons etc.
Things like Object oriented programming, Closures etc are a way to manage your code and architect your software application. Its the loops, conditions and arithemetic that actually do the real work! C is really good at teaching these things helped by the fact that There is a small, fixed number of keywords.
Less Language Learning, more Language Using.
When you learn C you automatically learn other languages.
C influenced AMPL, AWK, csh, C++, C--, C#, Objective-C, BitC, D, Go,
Python, Seed7, Verilog (HDL)!
C is still in rampant use today.
C is used for System Programming, Developing OSes, Developing Servers, Databases, even Browsers and Virtual Machines.
C is blazzzingly fast!
The world's most performant Servers are written in C.
Statistical, Mathematical and other Computationally intensive environments are written in C. The GNU Multi-Precision Library, the GNU Scientific Library, Mathematica, R language and MATLAB are completely or partially written in C
C has been used to actually make (not just influence) more languages.
You can find parsers for almost any language in C. The primary implementations of Python (CPython), Perl 5, R and PHP are all written in C!
C is almost exclusive for writing Device Drivers.
Whether Linux, Windows or Mac there is a great demand for C Engineers in Hardware companies and Software Companies making OSes for development of device drivers.
C is almost exclusive for writing code in Embedded Environments.
All your Micro Controllers, System on a Chip, and other Embedded hardware is written either in Assembly or in C. Infact this is a reason why many Electronics majors are also taught C.
The next great language will be again based off of C.
C will teach you theory and application.
Most importantly, the responsibility of an academic setup is not just just to teach you skills the industry needs, or you would need for a job but also equip you with enough theoretical and analytic skills so you can still stay relevant navigating the changes of the future.