Field of Science

Student debt. Are universities responsible?

Student Debt Isn’t the Problem. Colleges Are.

We need to make universities responsible for their students’ outcomes. It is egregious that students, parents, and taxpayers are the ones who suffer when colleges don’t do their jobs while the colleges in question are left untouched. We simply can’t let them get away with it anymore.
So says Reihan Salam, a columnist at Slate.

Dear Reihan, respectfully, what a tool you are!  Do you think students are purchasing a degree? What do you think our university is an online degree mill?  At real universities you purchase the opportunity to learn, and while we can lead students to opportunities, we cannot learn it for them. 
You see this is the funny thing; when students do what you ask of them, they get good grades, they learn, and when they do this enough they get a degree.  BUT (notice how big the but is) they don’t always do that.  The list of reasons, some delivered with teary eyes, would fill a book. 
In Salam’s opinion, the college “simply can’t get away with this anymore”, students paying money, going into debt, and then not getting their degree.  This is something colleges "get away with"? You know the students who do accomplish a degree actually don't want us handing them out to just anyone who has paid their money.  Does Salam think the university is mugging students, taking their money, and then locking them out of classrooms?  Not providing them with opportunities?  We have students who think like this, and it’s never their fault.  One guy over the course of two semesters gave me the greatest gamut of excuses ever for a single student, and it turns out he was doing this with other faculty, and when we started checking stories he was caught out, and then summarily thrown out, and Salam thinks it’s the university’s fault he didn't get a degree. Now student debt, the result in public institutions of the withdrawal of public support, sometimes over 2-3 decades, sometimes rather abruptly, is a policy decision done with budgets to shift the fiscal responsibility to the student (and their family).  And politicians can do this without passing a bill saying that they're going to do this, and this even allows the politicians to dun the university for raising costs too. And how is it that taxpayers are suffering since the portion of their taxes going to public education has been reduced from 62% to 18% of the costs over TPP's 35 years in the business here in Lincolnland. So Reihan, our university isn't getting away with anything, if fact when you factor in the loss of state support, and the unfunded mandates the university gets handed, the real costs have risen less than the cost of living, and our salaries are proof of this.  Too bad Reihan doesn't understand how universities work, and he should be responsible for knowing because he chose to write about us.  Hope Slate doesn't let him get away with this anymore.  It's irresponsible.   
Addendum - OK, TPP will cut Salam a bit of slack when it comes to student advisement.  Some of it is poor, admittedly, but even good advice is often ignored, and Salam seems to think students arrive at university knowing what they want, what they are interested in, and what they need. 


April Roberts said...

Amen. I just commented on that ridiculous article over at the Slate site. As a secondary educator and a college professor, Salam's position made me laugh aloud while shaking my head in disdain. I agree that many big universities don't do an adequate job at advisement (speaking from experience as a former attendee of a big box state university). However, I believe that Salam's plan will cause colleges to simply mandate that professors pass all students regardless of individual performance. Didn't go to class or turn in papers? Don't worry about it! Never passed a single assessment? No problem! It's all good. Here's your diploma.

I already struggle with grad students who become upset when late penalties are deducted from papers turned in four days late. My peers tell me stories of students who text them wanting to be waived from 30 hour practicum requirements because "they don't have time" to do them. Amazing.

What a shame that our society has reached a point where there is less and less accountability for students. Perhaps we should make entry requirements tougher to weed out the slackers? Could it be that all students should be on a one or two year probation period during their first year of college before being admitted to a program major? Maybe we should require 2 years of military/civil service before college entry (as does Israel)? I don't have the answer of course, but I'm pretty sure lowering the bar for students while raising the bar for universities is not the solution.

The Phytophactor said...

TPP has always supported the idea of a 2 year mandatory national service. All parties would benefit.