Higher Education: The crime of our college mentalityLos Angeles Post-Examiner

Higher Education: The crime of our college mentality

The other day I received a copy of my college alumni magazine. It pretty much serves as one giant advertisement with the hope guys like me will be impressed enough to donate money. It didn’t work in my case.

Toward the end, they ran a small profile of a female student in which they tell me what a swell kid she is. I have no doubt she is not doing a great job as both a student and an athlete or the financial burden it presents to someone like her who attends a college that does not award athletic scholarships. When it finished, it broke down the cost of her year at CSU Chico with a grand total of over $27,000.00 for the coming year. It made a point of reminding me how my small donation would go a long way to helping her and students just like her. Sorry, I am not buying it.

From 1979 to 1983 I attended CSU Chico from after spending two years at my local community college.That first year in Chico, my financial needs totaled three grand. For this small amount, there was enough to cover my tuition, books, food, rent, and entertainment. When college ended, I carried zero debt which allowed me to pursue whatever I wanted without having to worry about remaining beholden to a college for decades after graduating to pay off loans.

For 30 years, I worked as a teacher at the middle and high school levels where among other things, public schools did a pretty good job of making a kid feel guilty if they did not want to go on to college and earn a degree. They did an excellent job of making kids feel ashamed if they did not desire going to college, made little effort to impress on children the many other paths to success that did not require a college degree, and as money tightened for public school funding, began cutting job training programs while caving to the academic testing fever designed to push children to their breaking point. In short, they sucked the fun out of education, all to prepare kids to attend colleges they could not afford.

What other publicly funded institution has been allowed to increase its cost to where it is nine times more expensive to attend today than it was 40 years ago? What are students receiving for this added cost that makes it all worth the investment? What kind of family can afford to send their kids to college without breaking the bank in the process?

One Mile Recreation Area on Big Chico Creek
(Jason Halley/University Photographer)

One of my daughters graduated from CSU Chico in 2012. I got to see first-hand just how much the college had changed since my time there as a student. New and energy efficient buildings had been constructed all over campus. The book store was expanded. A student rec center to die for had just about anything college kids could want with the exception of a bar serving free booze. There was a huge pool area that never existed in our day for students to lounge around. In my day, if we wanted to cool off, we just jumped in the creek that flowed through campus or went tubing down the Sacramento River.

Our recreation was joining an intramural league or going for a run. Now there is an indoor track that overlooks a fitness center that looks like something meant for a professional sports franchise. It offers yoga and spin classes for students, places to lift weights, climb ropes, and basically have an excuse to wear trendy fitness gear while flirting with one another.

There was a new baseball stadium and numerous other additions to the athletic departments, most of which serve just a small select group of student athletes. There was also no shortage of new and expensive student dorms for the massive increase of students that now attend Chico State.

My college, while still charming, had fallen prey to what all other colleges have fallen to; keeping up with the Jones.

You see, kids today don’t want to go to college unless it is fun. It also has to be easy since the average GPA has increased by over a full point in our colleges over the last 75 years. Even the professors want to be liked on their student evaluations it seems.

This cost would be understandable if everything was nine times more expensive than it was in 1980. If that were the case, gas would be around 15 bucks a gallon, bread would run 10 dollars, and a happy hour beer at my favorite watering hole would be nine dollars. Not even the cost of going to a doctor has increased at this rate.

College is not for everyone. I know this just from seeing my three kids make their own decisions about whether or not to pursue a degree. Worse, the four year degree kids walk away with is now considered about the equivalent of a high school diploma from when I graduated from high school.

Colleges now shame students into thinking they need a Masters Degree if they want to have any shot of success in the real world. In other words, plan on spending $150 thousand dollars or more just to be of value to someone who has a job that will allow you to scrape by, pay off your loans, and meet your basic day to day needs while working you to death.

Mitchell Hall, at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee has been standing since 1909 (Tim Forkes)

Our public schools are failing our children today because they fail to really prepare high school grads for life after high school. If a kid is not headed off to college, our public schools for the most part have left these soon to be adults with little or nothing to offer anyone. School counselors know little to nothing about trade schools and what they offer young people in the way of professional opportunity. This is criminal given that most of the jobs performed by Americans today do not require a four-year degree from a university.

Many community colleges offer excellent two year programs that will lead to careers in the fields of law enforcement, medicine, fire and rescue services, paramedics, and early childhood education. Instead, public schools remind students if they attend their local community college and complete their undergraduate work, they will have a spot reserved for them at their local state college. It’s a great way to save money, but all too often in the image conscious world we live in, looked at by many as the path taken only by those who did not possess good enough grades to be accepted into a “real” college.

How well are we preparing students to make life decisions if they are so concerned about what others will think of them if they end up attending their local community college instead of leaving home to run up a tab they may never pay off? High schools fail to tell our kids no one in the real world will ever ask you about your college GPA. You might be asked to produce your transcripts, but no one is ever going to take the time to notice you got a C+ in your U.S. History class.

They also are not going to care if you owe 100 grand in student loans. Your salary will be predetermined and will not be up for negotiation so it is up to you to figure out your financial mess you were sold by our public school system.

There is no sane reason why a college that is still considered affordable by today’s standards should be getting away with the fees charged like the ones kids pay at CSU Chico or any other state college in California. While they are just charging what they can get away with, the real crime is how they have been allowed to get into bed with our public school system in convincing our children there is no other way to be successful in this world unless you choose college.

Believe it or not, there are other paths to success in this world. Just don’t hold your breath and think our public schools will share them with you.

Wildcat Recreation Center by Christie Landrie for CSU, Chico

 

 


About the author

James Moore

Jim is a life long resident of California and retired school teacher with 30 years in public education. Jim earned his BA in History from CSU Chico in 1981 and his MA in Education from Azusa Pacific University in 1994. He is also the author of Teaching The Teacher: Lessons Learned From Teaching. Jim considers himself an equal opportunity pain in the ass to any political party, group, or individual who looks to profit off of hypocrisy. When he is not pointing out the conflicting words and actions of our leaders, the NFL commissioner, or humans in general, he can be found riding his bike for hours on end while pondering his next article. Jim recently moved to Camarillo, CA after being convinced to join the witness protection program. Contact the author.
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