College not the guarantee of economic freedom it once was

English: Athletics logo for the University of ...

Unlike most kids over the last decade or two, neither parents nor educators drilled it into my head that I must attend college. I was one of those kids bestowed the “gifted” label, however, and letting life get in the way of higher education meant years of intellectually unsatisfying work.

Once I reached a point that I could work on a degree, I experienced a mental paradigm shift that four years later culminated in the beginning of an economic shift (and thank God it did). There was plenty of rigor for me, and it made me a better, more critical thinker. But in the mid-90’s when I attended college, they were already starting to lower barriers to entry – and I don’t just mean economic barriers. I couldn’t believe that you could essentially fail to learn math or English and they’d give you remedial classes in college. But they did.

Georgia’s people and politicians bought into the idea that sending kids to college guaranteed their success, and they started a lottery and the HOPE scholarship program to help achieve their goal. While it undoubtedly helped some who might’ve had a more difficult path to a degree, critics think that it’s motivated high school teachers to inflate grades to help kids qualify. Lots of those kids go on to college and lose the scholarship partway in. Some drop out; others continue by signing up for more student loans. The net result is that HOPE created more degreed persons seeking what became fewer and fewer jobs.

A few years later when I was in a position to review applications and interview graduates or near-graduates I couldn’t believe how…dumb…some of them were. I felt bad about graduating with $20K in debt, but that was nothing compared to what many of these kids had racked up. Parents and high school advisors everywhere bought into higher education’s promise of guaranteed riches, and college enrollment ballooned – along with tuition. As a result, we created scores of indebted dolts all across the nation.

I saw that unfortunate state of affairs before I began seeing hard data like that linked below, and with the younger of our bunch, I backed off my insistence that college was a necessity. Not everyone is college material, and even some with high IQs might be better off skipping college.

45 percent of students in the study made no gains in their writing, complex reasoning, or critical-thinking skills during their first two years of college. After four years, the news wasn’t much better: 36 percent failed to show any improvement. The main reason for this, the researchers found, was a lack of rigor. Through surveys they learned that students spent about 12 hours a week studying on average, much of that time in groups. Most didn’t take courses that required them to read more than 40 pages a week or write more than 20 pages over the course of an entire semester.

via Congratulations, College Graduate. Now Tell Us: What Did You Learn? | LinkedIn.

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