Thursday, September 14, 2006

College Graduation Rates Stink

The New York Times reports that over 50% of colleges have graduation rates below 10% after six years. Can you imagine the grad rate after four years? Ha!

There are a couple factors here:

  1. Students are accepted to institutions who have no business being there.
  2. Public schools suck. It's an easy mantra to repeat, but it's true.
  3. Colleges make money the longer people stay. They make money if someone fails. They make money if someone succeeds.
I know many young people, very smart young people, who are taking five years to finish a degree because of malicious scheduling by their institutions. Classes that are offered at times that work and are prerequisites get switched around, pulled or otherwise changed. Oops! Another semester. Ignorant advisors can really mess up a kid's progress.

The student can be a pawn. But that is not what is going on to explain the above numbers. High Schools stink. A kid taking regular high school classes is in for a shock. MIT, as I noted before, was stunned with incoming Freshmen' lack of physics knowledge and went so far as to create a curriculum for high schools, but guess what? Teachers didn't want to take the free seminars to learn this innovative and effective curriculum.

With the new tech economy, students not cut out for sit-on-your-butt learning, kinesthetic learners for example, are stuck. Apprenticeships seem to be a thing of the past--quaint old-fashioned notions not suited to the new economy.

Inaccurate self-assessments are also a modern day scourge. Everyone thinks they are rocket scientists these days. Just as everyone rates themselves as "above average" drivers, everyone rates their thinkin' right up there, too. College can be a shock to an average-smart student who did well in high school through sheer will or grade inflation.

And one more thing. Since when did it become acceptable to take five or six years or seven to finish up a degree? It prolongs the inevitable and can cost so much in the long run.

Having tried it nearly all ways, I found working full time and going to school part-time excruciating. Full-time school and part-time work was easier. And at a certain point in grad school, I just had to focus on my studies. I had forty contact hours in my fourth trimester at Chiropractic College. It wasn't the toughest semester academically, believe it or not, but there are only so many hours in a day.

The overall cause of the college failure rate is economic. Colleges have a vested interest in accepting anyone with two brain lobes whether anything is in them or not. Who cares if it saddles a kid with mounds of debt?

It's not all dark and nefarious. It is very democratic to accept everyone and then see who thrives. I would hate for the converse situation to be the norm--where a smart high school slacker is held back and not allowed into college just 'cuz his grades stink. A good I.Q. Test and SAT score should ameliorate that problem, even still.

Bottom line, if a college accepts someone, they should have the expectation that he or she will graduate. How will that square with Affirmative Action? The colleges play games accepting anyone and everyone to pump up numbers knowing full well the student will bail after a semester or two. It keeps the institution law-abiding. It doesn't mar the schools reputation to have a dumb-head graduate claiming to be an alumnus.

The only one who loses is the student.


Chalmers said...

As someone that graduated on time (4 years) even though I effectively lost 1-2 semesters-worth of credits through a transfer, I can this, students that are willing to take classes at times that are very inconvenient (read: early in the morning) can always fill a schedule. I had classes at 8 AM my senior year because that was the only way I could get all my classes in and work. Fact is, high schools prepare students to be mediocre and lazy.

American Idol is a great example of how we train our children. Oh Suzy, you are such an excellent singer... Never mind that Suzy sounds like someone on a three day cigarette and beer bender on acid! These students come in with their 3.5 GPA, padded by "E-Business" high school classes (what the hell is that?!?) and cannot cut it, even though the classes at colleges are only getting easier!

As with most issues, it begins and could end, with the parents (of course I have no children...).

Anonymous said...

Amen to the previous commenter. He did work very hard to attain his goals and graduated in 4 years. He is a mqan of character and happens to be very cute. I love you, Mom

Dr. Melissa said...

Amd to think I got excited because two people commented. Oy vey.

Wordsmith of Austin said...

The other large factor is in student loans. I run into way too many graduates reaching for positions a bit out of their experience levels due to the pressures of having to pay very large student loans back. I help build strong resumes for these grads but sometime the information they would like to portray is far too exaggerated

Colter said...

Hi, my name is Colter, I am currently a freshmen at Texas State University and I believe I actually lived on the same street as you in The Woodlands a couple years ago. I agree that for the most part, public high schools are terrible. I overheard one girl at the dining hall last semester saying, "I can't believe I have two Ds, I had a 3.8 (GPA) in high school". Turns out, she went to a small 2A high school with only a hundred or so kids. Meanwhile, those who went to larger high schools, such as The Woodlands, Round Rock, or Smithson Valley are finding classes to be challenging, but not insanely hard. Also, I've noticed a huge difference in the grades of those who did and did not take AP (Advanced Placement) courses in high school. I think these courses are the best preparation for an all-out college course.

-Colter Ray-