|WHY GO TO COLLEGE?|
Anne Matthews takes your questions on what really goes on within campus walls....
May 27, 1997
in this forum:
How will new technologies change educational opportunities? To what extent do social, moral and political biases of faculty and administrators direct a college's budget? What is the purpose of a core curriculum? Do the present cost differentials between private and state universities and community colleges perpetuate inequality ? Are there any substantial college reform proposals ? Why is a professor's research encouraged more than his or her teaching skills? How does grade inflation effect the quality of education at prestigious universities?
May 1, 1997:
A discussion on the rising cost of higher education .
February 10, 1997
Experts discuss President Clinton's plans for college tuition assistance.
December 26, 1996
A NewsHour panel scrutinizes the Democrat's plans for the 105th Congress' education initiatives.
Financial aid links for higher education.
Hugh Heclo of White Post, Virginia, writes:
The introductory blurb states that "many students are going through college without ever speaking to a senior professor" W How many students TRY to speak to a senior professor? How many know a senior professor's office hours? How many have called and not had calls returned etc. etc. The point is, as we beat up on yet another social institution--which is a corrupted verion of what it should be, to be sure--let's consider the old fashioned idea of what a student's responsibilities are. A major reason college education is corrupted is because students and their backers do not take up their responsibilities and thereby come to make the kind of demands that would push colleges to clean up their act.
There was a time, the days of university paternalism and self-confidence, when those in authority largely imposed a view of appropriate behavior, curricular content for a "decent" education. That was culturally unsustainable after mid-century.
What we have now (apart from the employment training aspects of a college "education") is a kind of mutual conspiracy between university authorities and students--It says in effect, you don't take the idea of genuine liberal education too seriously,and neither will we, and neither of us will tell the outsiders supporting us.
Mr. K. Emmanuel of Arl., VA., writes:
Relatively, the problem is not with the expenses of the education rather than the availability of the income to cover these expenses. I have noticed that today's trend of the employers is not different than the mentality of Mary Antoinette in the middle ages, when we see these big organizations claim that their main expense is their employees' salaries which is not true, and this is obvious in their incredibly huge over expenses in published advertisments [everyday] which would end up in the trash without look from the customers; I say customers here, because most of these employers are among the biggest recruiting organizations of retail and finance businesses.
Donald Coppock of Sea Cliff NY, writes:
I went to a competitive liberal arts college and graduated in 1969.
According to the information sent to the alumni, the percentage of costs that are covered by tuition & fees are just about the same now as then (55%). Note, at this school, the faculty/student ratio has remained almost the same (~9+) Perhaps what has really changed is that we now try to compare all colleges Stanford, Harvard, elite undergrad institutions with what used to be called teachers colleges and the small religious schools. This is really just a case of apples and oranges.
Faculty salaries are not the problem. My father was a faculty member at a State university and when I graduated his salary would buy 6 years of Tuition Room and Board. Now a Full professor at the same university would be pressed to buy 3 years. 3 x 31,000 = $93,000.
The problem comes from a massive increase in deans, assistant deans, associate deans, program directors, assistant program directors, coordinators, secretaries for the coordinators of assistant deans etc. Part of this is mandated by federal programs, but part of it can be dispensed with.
However, this expensive education is indispensible for many because you not only get the knowledge, but you rub elbows with those who will be the next generation of leaders in their fields. Even if the instruction were of equal caliber in the North South East West University, without a group of energetic, talented students, the education would not be the same.
Niranjan Karnik of Champaign, Illinois, writes:
As a graduate student, teacher and scholar, I have found that one of the key issues facing American colleges today is the tremendous amount of remedial work we do for our students. I often listen to parents argue about what their children are not taught...the demise of Western Civ courses and the like. What about what they are taught. I spend a significant amount of time in my Sociology classes teaching my students basic writing skills. Skills that they should have learned in high school. I do it because it needs to be done but in all honesty, it is a waste of my skills as a Sociologist to devote time to it.
Laura Dale of Yucaipa, CA, writes:
Wow! The timing of this topic is so perfect for our family. We are in the midst of the crisis as I write this. My husband has three children, all of whom are worthy of a college education. Sadly for us, only one of them will graduate from a four-year institution, as the younger two have just informed us that they are dropping out. Although I am a step-parent, I have known these kids for ten years and hoped that they would come to understand college similarly to the way their father and I have come to understand it: college is a process enabling young adults to think openly, critically, and intelligently.
All of the things you have cited in your opening about colleges are true. Both my husband and I have degrees (I have a Masters, he has a BA), and we both worked at Universities for a period of time. I noted that you have grown up on a college campus. I feel I have spent my life at college - enjoying what I choose to get out of it. I am a teacher - I have had 8 years of college (four for my BA, 2 for my MA, and 1-1/2 for my credential to teach elementary school). The pressure on young adults to get into college is not equivalent to the work it takes to succeed in college. In addition, the size of campuses today astounds me. I have never sat as a student in a class of more than 40 people. I have taught classes of 100 students when I was a graduate teaching assistant, but the daily meetings were broken into groups of no more than 20.
I have listened to the complaints of our middle and youngest, both of whom scored high on the SAT's and were in the "gifted" classes in high school. They use the infuriating language: "I'm bored." "College doesn't prepare you for anything." "No one cares if I am here or not." "So, I get to work for someone else and do the same thing day in-day out."
I have to ask how the UC system offers anything to a student when the class size is around 400 students? I have gone to both small and large schools and this is just absurd to me. THIS IS NOT EDUCATION. This is a factory in which a product is stamped out and the defective ones who don't meet the test are dropped out of the production line. How can they not fall off the assembly line when they don't make a connection with anyone on a campus, almost everyone who has a job there is conveniently "out of the office" during business hours, or can't give you an answer to your problem. Registration is even more ridiculous as it is now done over the telephone from the convenience of "your home" and not the university campus. Neither of the younger two have personalities in which they will raise their hands in front of 400 other students to ask a question they might want to have answered.
Michael Bodell of Cambridge, MA, writes:
I fear there is a real danger of causing far more problems then you solve when you start to look at higher education from a balance sheet. First of all when people look at the cost of education often they forget about the financial aid packages. At an expensive University like Harvard where the cost of attending is around $30,000 a year, many people forget that that quoted price is only for the few very wealthy families that can afford it. For most of the students there are financial aid packages, and last year the average financial aid package was over $20,000. So a high price tag does not always mean high payments for the student. A second common criticism of higher education, as was raised by Ralph Reiland of Robert Morris College on an earlier program is that the "10 hours of average work per week by a professor" is unreasonable. And if these professors only worked an average of 10 hours a week that would be unacceptable but accounting for professors' hours in such a way as only counting teaching and official office hours is about as accurate as saying Jim Lehrer only works five hours a week. It forgets the preparation time and the research time that are vitally important parts of a professors time. We currently view education as a cost that we then are trying to minimize. It is time that we realized that education is really an investment with incredible returns.
Jeanine of Champaign, IL, writes:
My message is not of a question but a comment on the college education one receives. Colleges seem to be more worried with making a name for themselves then giving the best education to their students. Being a student myself, this has become a fact to me. I have experienced much poor quality teaching; teaching that could have been done better by just reading a book. It's hard enough feeling that you are waisting your time and money, but when an education becomes a requirement to have a "good life," you feel betrayed and angry. Someone who has written articles and been published is not all of a sudden transformed into a reputible teacher.
Mike Beecher of Baltimore Maryland, writes:
First, I like to give some background. I am 42 years old working on a college degree to keep a job I have been doing for the last 11 years. Even though I have worked a lot of major projects for this company, many of them I headed up. The trouble is I am peaked in my advancements because I do not have a college degree. This is why I have started going to college at such a late age. Don't get me wrong, the company I work for recognizes my talents and compensate me very well; however, I have been told without a degree I can not advance.
Now on to my view of college. After spending several years in college part time ( I have 74 credits). I have come to believe these people live in a make-believe world. Almost every class I have attended teaches the memorization method of passing instead of how to use resources to get a job done. To me this is crazy. With the rapid rate technology becomes obsolete, being replaced by new technology, how can anyone expect this method to train people for the future. I have even had instructors tell us exactly what would be on the test so we would not have to study to hard. Then the questions consisted of very few analytical problems and only what we could memorize.
Many times I have voiced my concerns to the instructors and always I get the same reply. Well you know how to think, that is way beyond the capabilities of the average college student. Exactly what is college for? I have not figured it out.
Andrew A. Zvara of Silver Spring, Maryland, writes:
Why do we continue to believe that the purpose of education is to prepare students for the workplace? I would like to hear from anyone who has read a college catelogue who can point out to me the courses listed that pertain to skills needed in the workplace?
I would also like to hear from anyone who can say that the college or university experience prepared them for the work- place.
Workplace skills, it seems to be, are obtained, if at all, as a by-product of what goes on at college or university.
Gary Johnson of Madison, Alabama (Suburb of Huntsville), writes:
I would like to address the statement that "... many students are going through college without speaking to a senior professor, or sitting in a classroom of less [fewer?] than a hundred students." My son is currently a junior at Mississippi State University with a double major in Computer Engineering and Philosophy. With the exception of labs, he has always had instructors holding a PhD, many of them full professors and department heads. The largest class has been a lab with about 65 students. Most classes have had about 15 students, some as few as 7 and others around 30. Admittedly, many of the courses have been in the University Honors Program, which tends to have small classes, but the University overall is not small -- about 15,000 students. I certainly cannot complain about large classes or lack of interest on the part of the university and the professors -- they are always willing to talk to the student, any time, any where, as long as the student shows an interest in performing well. This is true from the University President on down the line. He is being offered a quality education, and has chosen to accept it -- he has a 4.0 GPA.
I suppose I would disagree with Ms. Matthews on some of her observations on demographics of freshmen classes: she says that 82% of the classes are white; that is about the proportion of Caucasians in the country as a whole, is it not? 26% are "born again" (whatever that means) Christians; I'm surprised that it's not higher. She observes that there are more business majors than liberal arts majors; that's not surprising -- in my opinion, liberal arts curriculum does not prepare a student for a job, which is what most are there for, but is merely an unfocused extension of high school, a mediocre exercise in "intellectual pursuit." Job preparation is not necessarily a quality of liberal or conservative thinking, but is reality.