I walked into my classroom this week, midway through the semester, and see 4 students. That’s all. Out of 24 who were signed up and 23 who showed up the first week, all I had in front of me were these students. These are all who I will see the rest of the semester.
No, it’s not that so many realized they failed-in fact not one student of mine left failing. Was the problem me? No, not by the appearance of every classroom I peered into and those I continue to gauge. No, not by the comments made by other professors. “It’s just what happens at this point,” stated a colleague.
Of course, I know this, having been through it for years, but for some reason it really struck me as tragic. Perhaps its the consecutive semesters that it has happened with no solution in sight.
What has happened is something I wrote about as the Indianapolis Colt’s football team approached the playoffs last season.
There were countless reasons why the students I had stopped showing up. They sometimes would tell me what happened–car problems, jail, too much on their plate. Sometimes they were just there to collect the financial-aid refund check and never come back. They didn’t play to win. Something in their management team said it wasn’t important to pass the class–to win.
While some safeguards have been put in place, I cannot say it’s enough. Many of my students brag when their financial aid refund checks are deposited that they are getting $7-8 THOUSAND dollars, mostly in Pell and other grants, and know they don’t need to show up for the rest of the semester. They get their check and they are gone. This has to be, by far, the worst semester I have ever seen.
The cost of not only college tuition and books is considered when financial aid is determined, but also the cost of living. Students are not required to show receipts for any expense. Once the money is deposited to them, they have no accountability. Students brag about the $4,000 laptop they bought and Disney vacations.
Study upon scholarly study talks about retention rates. They discuss ‘drop-outs’ but don’t want to talk about Higher Education’s dirty-little-secret. They don’t want to discuss going to school just for the money. College Boards and focus groups discuss merits of ‘opportunity for all’ and the all-time ‘high’ numbers of college degree awardees. There is a stark difference between students who don’t come back for their sophomore year, and those who show up for the first day of class to collect their check. And what college wants to release that information?
I could go into details, show you the statistics along racial and poverty lines, but (heaven forbid) I appear to be politically incorrect. I am sure union thugs would show up at my doorstep demanding a retraction.
Yes, in the long run, it may cost students–but it is ultimately affecting us, the taxpaying citizen, who foots the bill for the ‘opportunity’. I would like to see the statistics on student loan repayment. I tend to believe it is nearly as large as the mortgage foreclosure crisis. Collecting that debt is costly and not nearly as successful as the former.
Not only is public education policy at the state and local level bankrupting America, but the higher education level as well.