By Professor Doom
I’m finishing up a quick look at a book, Community Colleges and the Access Affect, which details how most all community colleges operate in open violation of Federal law, since they sell coursework below the 9th grade level.
The book tries really, really, hard not to pin the blame on the lawlessness and corruption of higher education on administration—no wonder, since the authors use their real names, and are not administrators. They’d be fired in short order, and be unemployable in higher education if they dared to do such a thing.
Despite their quite understandable interest in covering their own butts, the book is a trove of information on what’s going on in higher education today. Allow me to present some select quotes:
“…twenty-seven of her first credit hours at the college will not count toward a degree…” (p1)
As I’ve written many times before, most of community college work isn’t college, and it’s quite common for students to literally take a year or more of material (students can easily take 24 credit hours in a year of college) before they can even think about taking college courses. The student discussed here wants to teach small children and is majoring in Education; the gentle reader would be surprised to learn just how many students I’ve had that want to teach small children, but can themselves barely function at the 5th grade level.
“…for many new students little or none of their coursework applies toward a degree…” (p3)
The books says stuff like this, but never really asks who allowed for so much useless coursework to be sold, or who allows people with no chance of getting a degree onto campus, or who tricked these people into taking out huge loans for coursework that is worthless no matter how you look at it.
Those are really pertinent questions to ask.
“It doesn’t really matter how you do; you can always get into community college and get it paid for.” (p4)
Many students in community college have this attitude. For them, community college is just a source of checks. Again, the authors fail to point out that before the students get their checks, the college (and thus, administration) gets first dibs on the money…students just get the crumbs. Since administrative pay depends on the size of the institution, administration is really, really, motivated to have lots people on campus. It’s odd that the authors don’t see the real problem here.
“…no student who entered the college at the lowest level of math preparation had ever graduated with an associate’s degree.” (p13, boldface added, describing the success rate of students at a particular community college)
I ask the reader to consider that quote. No student, none, not a one, who entered the program got anything out of it. It’s an anecdote, but a common one. At one large school where I taught, of some 25,000 students that went through the remedial program, zero made it to a college level math course. Again, that’s just an anecdote, but I want to emphasize a point the authors keep skipping over:
Administration knows full well that the chance of success for many remedial students is, effectively, 0. And yet it keeps enrolling those students, keeps encouraging those students, year after year. Anyone with integrity would realize that enrolling these students is cruel to them, and a waste of taxpayer resources…until you remove the people without integrity from higher education, none of the fixes proposed by this book will do much good.
“…No public institution of higher education shall offer any remedial support, including remedial courses, that is not embedded with the corresponding entry level course…” (p14)
Many institutions/states have instituted a “just in time” system for teaching remedial courses, where the remedial work is served up at the same time the college work is presented. This is, of course, just another fraud, and I’ve written in detail of this before. The reality of these initiatives is the remedial material is just put into the “college” course, while the college material is eliminated. In other words, the college course turns into a remedial course with a misleading name. This is why you can find 2nd year college courses now that are little different than remedial courses of a few decades ago.
So, unless these illegal institutions of plunder are shut down, that will be the next “solution” to the disaster of remedial education. It won’t be a solution, but it’ll mislead people for a little while. Years ago, remedial education was a disaster, so they renamed it “developmental”. Now, developmental education is a disaster, so they’ll just rename it to “college” work.
The end result will be the same, however, in that we’ll be graduating people with nothing more than what they had coming out of high school. Except that they’ll be older and deep in debt, and administrators will be much wealthier.
“…21st Century Commission on the Future of Community Colleges—with one token community college professor in the group of 39 contributors…” (p28)
As I’ve said repeatedly, the problem with higher education is that educators have no control over anything. The book will occasionally touch on this problem, but never seems to figure it out completely. It does at least mention that 38 of 39 contributors to community college policy recommendations were CEOs of community colleges and the like…educators have at best less than 3% of the influence on education right now, and that’s being generous.
Groups such as the above are looking into improving graduation rates, but not, of course, at the expense of growth, the only thing administration really understands. Key to these plans will be accelerating the process of “education”, and, of course, just make things easier than they are now (like “don’t shave” is difficult?).
…”Bill Gates declared, ‘We owe it to every American to make it pretty darn easy for them to get through the system…” (p29)
“Pretty darn easy,” he says. Yeah, that’s what I want in a nurse, someone who can barely think as well as a 10 year old, but still has a nursing degree received through an accelerated, super-easy, program. Bill Gates says we owe that to ourselves? I’m sure the next time he needs medical help or another mansion built or someone to fly his private jet, he’ll make an effort to get the kind of professionals he’s describing here.
The book is a little pricey for personal use (even the PDF is $30) and is classified as a textbook, so not available through interlibrary loan. Odd that the information within is so hard to disseminate, as I don’t see any course using this as a textbook. Allow me to share one more of the book’s gems detailing how messed up our higher education system is:
“…In the state of Tennessee, the graduation of some students is now more financially rewarding to institutions than the graduation of others…” (p36)
It’s so funny how often I’m told how institutions “do not discriminate” on the basis of race or whatever, but in Tennessee, your race can improve your chance of graduation. That is, of course, assuming administration thinks getting more money is important. That’s a pretty safe bet…the book doesn’t connect the dots here, however.
While the book has much to say, ultimately it dances around the real problem in higher education today: a corrupt, untouchable caste of administration has a stranglehold on education, and can force students and faculty to do anything it wants them to do. Since administrative goals are growth, and retention, concepts like “integrity”, “skills”, “education”, and “reputation” are merely objects to be sacrificed in the name of growth and retention, nothing more.