The Slow Rot of Higher Education: A Response to Jeremy
Jeremy takes issue with my rant.
Actually, I take his contribution as confirmation of what I wrote. Jeremy is an economics student at California State University, Chico. Unfortunately, I have never had the opportunity to have him in the classroom, although I recently had a very good discussion with him.
I mentioned in my rant about the shenanigans of the University of California system, because the lack of transparency in the state college system makes an exposé, such as Meister’s, virtually impossible.
Jeremy suggests that most of the money is being used to create classrooms, but here in Chico, I cannot see much expansion of classrooms. I agree that building more classroom space for students is important. In fact, one of the greatest legacies of the G.I. Bill after World War II was to flood the university system with students, creating an urgent need for expansion. This new capacity, once built, made facilities available for generations of students. This expansion was a major factor in creating the golden age of higher education, which is coming to an inglorious end.
Jeremy suggests that students who really want an education can find a way. Since I began teaching in 1971, the greatest change has been the number of hours that students work in order to pay for their education. This pressure drags down education because so many students cannot put in the necessary study time. It also creates stress levels that interfere with education. Grade inflation is a partial response to this situation.
In addition, the financialization of higher education, together with budgetary stringency, forces programs to compete for students to sustain their funding. For example, prerequisites in economics discourage students who may choose majors that seem easier. Economics departments have to lower the barrier to entry in order to compete. Other departments will respond by making their programs easier.
Jeremy correctly describes one aspect of higher education; namely, that the college has become extended day care for many. He is both right and wrong. I become critical of my day care students until I remember that I was a day care student when I first came to University of Michigan. Over time, I became hooked.
In conclusion, Jeremy’s message is that we are still able to do something right in order to get an intelligent response, such as his.