Tuesday, August 10, 2010

College Graduation Rates. Where to Start?

I believe the only beneficial part of Facebook's NewsFeed is that I can steal content my friends find and post it here. And that's what is happening today. Grad school survivor Jack posted this article about Obama's take on graduation rates. As with most things, I reacted with a mixture of excitement and fear.

Where this might go right: If financial aid reform increases access to universities by students who under the current system can't afford to enroll or finish a degree.

Where this might go wrong: If the burden falls onto the schools and professors to graduate out any and all students accepted and enrolled.

"The nation's education system", as the article calls it, does encompass a huge number of programs for preschool-age kiddies all the way to college and post-grad ed. I'm always shocked at the number of people who don't think that secondary and higher education are intertwined. Students gain acceptance to college based on their performance as reported by their secondary educational institution. If students aren't finishing degrees because they don't possess the necessary skills, it isn't enough to overhaul the college system.

Speaking very generally, I think a lot of college educators are tempted (even if they don't actually) to brush deficiencies in high school curricula off as not their problem. But when students enroll in your class, their problems are also your problems. I admit that I'm probably quite out of touch with what junior high and high school classes are like today. I was forced to admit this after learning that students in our classes might have been paddled by teachers. (The first quote in this article is fantastic, by the way, but the rest of it makes me sad.) What the heck else is going on in schools that I don't know about?

The bottom line is that I hope this call to increase graduation rates results in real changes and not quick fixes. Only time will tell. Also, I don't know whether to be concerned or relieved that my degree didn't make this list of college degrees that don't pay...

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