Saturday, March 6, 2010

The post-graduate limbo.

How low will they go?

In keeping with the tradition of my blog, so far, I must begin by mentioning my 22 year old sister. While doing research for this blog, I received a text message from her that stated simply "Longwood isn't letting me graduate in May...". This, of course, struck a chord with me, as the college that I recently departed from committed the same offense against me. But "Why?", you may ask. Was our GPA too low? Did one of us get kicked off campus, because we were caught selling weed out of our dorm room? The simple answer is: No. They just want more money out of us. That IS the plain and simple answer you will find once you cut through all of the B.S.

The particular B.S. my sister was fed, back in September, was that she had completed the required amount of credits to graduate. The fact that she was, for the lack of better words, lied to, really upsets me. For one thing, she went into that meeting with her advisor, armed to the teeth, fully prepared to do what she needed to. If she was given the correct information, in a timely matter, she would have taken the classes she needed to take and would be walking in the graduation ceremony that should be available to all students. Another issue of contention with me and the collegiate system.


She had seen the same thing happen to me, a year and three months earlier, when a similar bomb had been dropped about an unnecessary, yet profoundly necessary, French 101 class. Long story short, I had taken French 101 in high school (in the 10th grade), taken French 102 in college after being APPROVED to take it, having the necessary knowledge to do so. I saw that there was still a gap in my transcript where the French 101 class should have been, so I contacted my French prof and said "you mentioned to me about being able to test out of that lower level class we both know I don't need, please contact me about that." I left my email address and phone number. I never heard from her. Over the next year I had talked to my advisor and she suggested I take electives to get the 125 credits needed to graduate(which should be the ultimate factor). I ended up getting to May 2009 with 129/125 credits. When I approached my advisor with this information she said "No, you need French 101 to graduate." I panicked, said, "What do I need to do?" I went through a LONG, arduous, and unnecessary (the key word here), process of filling out forms and phone calls, and emails, and it was a big mess. Ultimately I ended up doing everything I needed to do to walk in May, including taking the class by correspondence through University of Wisconsin (which was something I had to fight for). When I got to my graduation day, all dressed in cap and gown and ready to rock, my name wasn't on the list. They "accidentally" took me off of the list. The story is almost too exhausting to retell, but I gave out a bunch of evil stares and I got to get my empty diploma case handed to me on stage, sans diploma The diploma I would have to track down, on foot, six months later.

That aside, My sister is short six ELECTIVES that magically appeared out of nowhere.

Why? Well that leads me to the topical part of this blog.

The Topical Part

"Colleges and Universities are businesses and students are a cost item. As a result, many institutions tend to educate students in the cheapest way possible."

It seems that they also tend to profile students who can give the most fiscal input/output.

According to DAVID LEONHARDT, writer for the NY times business economy page, the numbers don't look good, and profits are the number one concern. But somehow everything they do to make profits go up, are shooting their numbers in the foot. For one, the number of college students who dropout during their Junior year has increased dramatically in only the last ten years. According to Leonhardt: "In education, the incentives can be truly perverse. Because large lecture classes are cheaper for a college than seminars, freshmen are cheaper than upperclassmen. So a college that allows many of its upperclassmen to drop out may be helping it's bottom line." It seems there is a clear incentive to make completion as difficult as possible for students in the hopes that most of them lack ambition and funds. That they will eventually find the struggle to "finish" too difficult, give up and move on.


Only about 33 percent of seniors graduate "on time". The definition of "on time" has also changed drastically in the last ten years. Four year institutions on average "release" six year graduates. Many graduates refer to their program as "the five year plan" which is a tongue in cheek reference to how the four year program is not realistically four years. So the average upperclassman has paid five to six years worth of tuition, rather than the initial numbers they may have considered as a freshman. Leonhardt suggests:"Conservatives are wrong to suggest affordability doesn’t matter But they are right that more money isn’t the whole answer. Higher education today also suffers from a deep cultural problem. Failure has become acceptable. Graduation delayed often becomes graduation denied. Administrators then make excuses for their graduation rates. And policy makers hand out money based on how many students a college enrolls rather than on what it does with those students. " Practices like this lead economists like Mark Schneider to refer to colleges as “failure factories”.

To Graduate or NOT TO, there's no question!

I'm not advocating dropping out once you are in, and I am certainly not suggesting not graduating after working hard for that degree, but is there another option?
In my opinion, the evidence is clear, the less students who graduate, the more revenue is made for the colleges. Either upperclassman stay in school longer and dole out more tuition, or they drop out, making room for less expensive underclassman. Either way profits are increased. Should we assume as intelligent and critical readers that colleges don't care about the success of it's students? Should we delve even further to see if a B.A. or B.S. is viable or even necessary in this economy?

If a student is "lucky" enough to graduate, they may not have as many choices as they initially expected. A Bachelor's degree isn't today what it was ten years ago. Certainly, the average student in a liberal arts college, does not have the resources for a clear future ahead of them, so they have to be creative and ambitious. In some cases a student can transfer from a four year institution directly into a graduate program and usually have more success gaining skills, and finding a career with the knowledge they are given there. Many graduate schools need students and will GIVE OUT FUNDING to get them. Graduate schools work with their students, prepare them, and treat them like viable adults.

The system as it stands, isn't working. College should be an enjoyable, enriching experience. Many students now are in a hurry to get out and find a 50K/year jobs that they can get with a high school diploma, and do very well having avoided the debt of tuition altogether. Some people still want the creative and intellectual exposure of a college career. Next week I hope to discuss some more problems with the education system and some improvements being made at the graduate level.

Stay tuned next week for : The Major and Minor Problem


  1. I didn't graduate on time, but that's because I had two majors and a minor, lol. but it is certainly becoming more and more difficult to graduate on time, especially in rigorous programs like the Music Education one my school had.

    I wish your sister luck; I feel her pain!

  2. This is one of the reasons I like the courses I want to take because you don't have any options. Everyone takes the exact same classes at specified times and that's it. It's not like you choose "I want to do ____ class this semester" or "___ class instead of _____" I'm sorry to hear about your sis' problems with the college (and I'm so glad yours worked out eventually). <3

  3. Thanks, y'all. I appreciate you taking the time to read this...even though there are things in it that do not apply to everyone's experience, I think that it's becoming more of a reality over time for most people.


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