Thursday, May 20, 2010

Is College the Answer?


In the article Plan B: Skip College from the New York Times, Mr. Steinberg writes,

“A small but influential group of economists and educators is pushing another pathway: for some students, no college at all. It’s time, they say, to develop credible alternatives for students unlikely to be successful pursuing a higher degree, or who may not be ready to do so.”

This struck home to me for some reason.

Over the past 30 years, I have seen us telling students that college is the be-all and end-all to everything. We (meaning the education system) has told them that they can’t get anywhere without a college degree. Then we have changed “vocational career centers” to “career and technology centers” which encourage only college bound students to attend. I still wonder who in the world is teaching young people about carpentry, brick masonry, electricity, auto mechanics etc. The need for people with these skills is still out there but people can’t really learn these skills until after they graduate or if they quit school.

I also think that colleges have raised tuition until it feels like only the elite get to have a college education. I have friends who really need tuition help but because their parents make too much money, they can’t get financial aid, yet their parents do not make enough to pay tuition. How frustrating that must be! I hear this same story time and time again. Of course, if the tuition wasn’t so high, more students would be able to afford it but I’m not sure that is what colleges want.

We started a state lottery years ago which was supposed to help students pay for college. Isn’t amazing with the extra financial help going to students that the colleges decided to raise tuition! So again, there doesn’t seem to be a positive benefit from this lottery. It became just another political game in the scheme of things.

In today’s economy, with many people losing their jobs and less jobs out there, why in the world would someone want to spend all this money for college? I never thought I would see a day when teachers would be laid off, but that day is here. When that happens, it is time for drastic measures.

Wouldn’t now be a good time to teach students a skill that they could barter with (I’m only talking about legal ones!)? I have noticed a lot of people lately trading services. This will be an advantage for survival during bad economic times. When money is scarce, but there is advantage to having a skill that someone else can benefit from. And if they have some skill that you could use, it would be beneficial for you to have something they need.

I can see that in the future, we will see more bartering for services until this economy turns around. Until that turn around comes, we need to prepare our students for the future that they will actually experience and not the future that we would like for them to experience. I agree that it is time to look at alternatives to college. What do you think?

Posted on the Successful Teaching Blog by loonyhiker (successfulteaching at gmail dot com).

Original image: 'Cambridge Backs at Dawn' by: Alex Brown


Mike Rush said...

Pat, you are so right with this timely post. We still send our kids to college, but many of them haven't done much in the way to prepare. In Arkansas, our college remediation rate tops 50%. But many of our students decide at some point that college isn't for them and when they also realize that college prep is the entire academic purpose of high school, they quit. In Arkansas, we have a 70% graduation rate. If about 60% of our kids go on to college, and half of them have to be remediated, then our current system prepares about 30% of our students for college, and like you said, thats just about our only current purpose. Here's the kicker! In Arkansas, only one-fourth of our freshmen stay in the four year program. So, the final score for our Arkansas college track high schools? We get about seven and a half of our students through the next level. Time for something different! Thanks for posting this.

Teacher Food

Anonymous said...

I totally agree. I heard a principle tell a parent whose child suffers from down syndrome that "everyone in this county goes to college." the likelihood of that student going to college was extremely slim and the principle was very naive to think so.

It's a shame we are doing our children such an injustice.