April 29 2013
Do Colleges Scam Working Class Kids?
We often view college as a great equalizer.
In fact, it may be just the opposite.
Naomi Schaefer Riley has a very depressing piece at the New York Post that shows how colleges all too often fail working class kids. No—let’s make that scam kids from working class backgrounds, who borrow money to go to college and then find that they are inadequately prepared and don’t manage to graduate.
Schaeffer Riley writes:
In their new book, “Paying for the Party: How College Maintains Inequality,” professors Elizabeth Armstrong (U. Michigan) and Laura Hamilton (UC-Merced) present depressing results from a five-year study that tracked the women from one freshman dorm at a Midwestern flagship university: Not a single one of the working-class women they’d monitored had managed to graduate.
So why aren’t kids graduating? They weren’t college-ready:
The problem’s hardly limited to top schools. Part of it is that colleges are regularly admitting students who aren’t ready for college-level work. In 2012, for instance,of the 250,000 who took the ACT (the main alternative to the SAT), only 52 percent scored as college-ready in reading, only a quarter as ready in reading, English, math and science. Yet many started school anyway.
Results? Well, the University of California reported a couple of years ago that fully half of its freshmen needed remedial work in either English or math.
They may not have been ready for college, but they were loan-ready. Far from helping such kids get ahead, colleges can saddle them with debt--but not a degree.
One way to improve the odds for working class kids is simple: guidance. Often lacking parents who have college degrees, they can benefit from somebody helping them pick the right courses and advising on study habits. But most colleges today are based on the notion that students know what they want.
This error is compounded by the profusion of really dumb courses with which a student can clutter his college career. Moreover, many colleges no longer have general education requirements that ensure that graduates emerge from four years of schooling with a knowledge of the basics civilized people formerly took for granted.
Students today can choose courses on prostitutes or “queer gardens”; on brain science or ancient democracies. But how is a freshman supposed to figure out whether it’s better to take the class on women in the European Union or the one on the Korean War — to know which is most important, which will be of lasting value and which would form a good foundation for the study of other subjects?
As Mark Bauerlein of Emory University notes, “You’re handing the choice to people who don’t know what to choose. They don’t think five years ahead and say, This will be better for me when I’m 25. The kind of discretion that the student-centered progressives want to give is actually damaging to students.”
It’s “a catastrophe,” says Peter Berkowitz of the Hoover Institution. “On the one hand, colleges have abandoned any actual structure,” so kids need help figuring out how to put together a serious plan for graduating. “But the faculty aren’t there. They’re off studying ‘queer gardens.’” He calls it a maze — and one where “those who come from poor academic backgrounds will do even less well.”
If colleges officials accept kids who can’t make it and then take their money, without providing proper guidance to succeed, they are really nothing more than scam artists with academic robes.