Saturday, April 22, 2006

The Trouble with Colleges

It used to be that a college diploma was a tacit agreement that you were a success and could expect good things in life. A generation ago, just getting through high school was a miracle in some parts of this country. Now the broad based assumption is that "everyone should go to college." I want to tell you that the conventional wisdom is dead wrong. Everyone does NOT belong in college although in certain corners it is expected and some segments of society feel they are entitled to admission. Let me say a couple of things here....I think we are fooling ourselves and our kids if we let them pass through high school assuming that they belong in college. Not everyone is capable of what should be a rigorous level of academic achievement. But a couple of things are happening that I find troubling. First of all, unless you are poor, or a minority, or disabled, it has become increasingly difficult to afford a conventional four year college. I know kids, my daughter for one, who have high school records of AP classes and high grades along with college class GPA's of 3.8, who file requests for scholarships and aid, and get NOTHING. I also know of athletes who really can barely function in high school classes, who are getting four year free rides. What is wrong with this picture. We don't support the kids who will probably be running things in ten years, but we do fund kids who have maybe a 2% chance of playing their game professionally? What message does this send? Believe me the kids know.

Another issue is that colleges and universities have become so isolated from the rest of us that they often create issues and barriers to the average student where none existed before. What should be their responsibility, such as lecturing, counseling, teaching and advising, is seen as drudge work to be done under duress and then with little accuracy or understanding on the huge financial burden every mistake means. When a kid is told to take a class, buys the overpriced textbook (which can't be sold back because a new version is coming.....!!!!) and then finds that due to lack of information the class won't apply to the degree plan or even worse, prevents them from taking needed classes in a timely fashion, there should be some professional repercussions against the advisor. I have seen this happen twice now to my daughter. Remember her, the one with the 3.8 GPA. She works her tail off, but due to the silly way that class hours are assigned, she won't graduate for another two years. While our current state governor wants there to be limits and penalties for students that take longer than four years in college, I wonder how in the world he thinks average families and average kids are going to do that without mortgaging the family home? My kids both work full time. Despite requests, jobs on campus go to those who are connected (i.e. politically connected kiss-ups and perky Greeks) while the rest of the kids work two or three jobs to live at subsistence level. My son currently has $55 left over at the end of the month. And with gas going up, that will be swallowed quickly.
Something has GOT to change. We are sending kids to school who have no intention of doing anything other than wasting money and simply getting wasted in general. The kids who are trying to do the right thing are either in debt up to their eyeballs with college loans or they are struggling just to eat once a day. When is someone going to stop caring so much about those who don't even care and give some support to the kids who are doing the right thing?

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