Pushing College

One of my favorite blogs, discussing the student loan problem, posted the following in part:

I fully understand that this fix [eliminating government student loan guarantees] would likely prevent thousands, if not millions, of young people from attending college, because schools would have to become more picky as to who was accepted in order to keep costs down.  Millions of poor people will either have to put college off or go part-time, taking longer to finish their schooling. 

To me, that’s fine.  A stint in grad school grading papers opened my eyes to the fact that there are a lot of young adults out there who absolutely do not belong in college–they simply don’t have the intellectual capability to handle a traditional university course load.  And we are not doing the poor any favors at all by putting them $20K, $50K, $100K or more into debt when they are barely into their wealth-creating years.  We can’t continue setting up entire generations of young people to fail for the false promise that a piece of paper provides.

I agree. Not solely because of the huge debt being accumulated, much of which is never paid, but also because unprepared students who drop out before being awarded a degree consume huge amounts of limited scholarship dollars–dollars that if more prudently appropriated, could have eased the debt load of more qualified and motivated students.

I teach at a high school that brags that 98% of graduates are accepted into college and proudly displays (one of those thermometer things) the amount of scholarship dollars graduating seniors have received. The college counselor does a fantastic job of conducting a two-week, one hour daily, College Boot Camp; orchestrating college visits; transporting students to college fairs; hosting college admission and college attending alumni speakers; guiding, assisting and following up students’ completion and submission of college applications; and educating students and parent/guardians about the intricacies of financing college. Yet the school does not track student college attrition and I know that many graduates are not academically, intellectually, emotionally or psychologically prepared to attend and succeed in college. Actually, many of them, probably about half, come to us unprepared for 9th grade, so we play a catch-up game that we cannot win.

Sadly, by achieving the high rate of undeserved college acceptances, I believe we are doing a terrible disservice to our graduates, indirectly lying to them by giving them the impression that they are ready for college. How disappointing and potentially hurtful will it be when they have to drop out owing thousands of dollars?