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Students Across the Nation Fight for #FreeCollege4All

Students Across the Nation Fight for #FreeCollege4All

Anna Attie

44 million people in the US owe nearly $1.5 trillion in student debt, a total that grows larger every day. Students often choose between eating three meals a day, paying rent, and buying textbooks. For many of us, the excitement of graduating is tempered by the fear of never being able to pay off student loans.

My peers and I belong to a generation that faces unprecedented barriers to quality higher education. The cost of college has risen four times faster than inflation, but our universities continuously fail to meet the needs of marginalized students.

Have some kind of entrance exam or Baccalaureate like Europe and let the best students get a “free” education.

As it stands right now about 50% of freshmen need remedial classes. About 30% drop out after the first year.

It’s not apt to work to insist students already be educated to get into class.

Placement tests might reasonably decide who gets into which classes where,

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Students do most of the work involved in learning, though we instructors do some. The entire society reaps the benefit–as occurred to me one fine evening as I was rolling along looking at the passing ceiling of a cardiac ward. Yet we insist that the student shoulders most of the burden of payment.

The theory behind this stems from Samuel P Huntington’s 1976 report to the Trilateral Commission on what he called an “excess of democracy.” He suggested that by forcing students into extreme debt for their studies, corporations could more fully control the behavior of both students and graduates, since they would have to sell their days and hours to the highest bidders rather than take up projects that they themselves regarded as interesting or beneficial.

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Of course not. The problem is they do not have he necessary prerequisites to attend that class. The class builds upon previous knowledge that was supposed to be acquired in high school. All the “remedial” classes are for things they should already know. You know, stuff you and i already paid for them during their K12 education.

Let them attend the class that they do have the prerequisites to attend. The placement test separates students from the classes that the are not prepared to take, and that’s good; but there’s no need that it should separate them from an education. There are lots of levels of classes and a range of subjects.

Apparently what we pay for in K-12 does not get overwhelmingly well delivered. A lot of that comes because of higher administrative regulation, and even more comes because children have problems outside of class. But it is good to remember that we pay not only for them, but also for ourselves: we need them to be educated.

I taught a lot of those remedial classes for just under fifteen years. A lot of my best students were returning to classes after some different sorts of experience–jail sentences, high school pregnancies, various sorts of jobs, illness, neighborhoods with little English fluency, houses wherein no one read a book.

These things are not signs that people do not need schooling, but that they do.

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All good points, but let’s not put that onus on the colleges. Let them focus on providing higher education to those capable of absorbing it. Right now anyone who pays can get in. Guess what after paying for a full semester they drop out. And there you, go student loan debt without a college education.

Have high schools provide remedial classes for those who want to get into college but are not prepared for it.

Few students could get into every school, and not everyone should. Within any single school, few if any students could get into every class; again, not everyone should. So different institutions handle different sorts of students, or at least those who place differently–very much as you suggest, if I understand you.

To a large extent, this seems to be a good deal of what the community college system handles. Insofar as I have been privileged to see it, community colleges mostly handle nontraditional and remedial students better than do state colleges and universities. Class size is smaller, reduced costs allow students greater flexibility to feel a path through curricula with greater access to instructors. Instructors enjoy quite a bit more flexibility within administrative guidelines than do high school teachers. Many make good use of that, as high school teachers likely would were they granted it.

I suppose high schools with adult school courses could handle most of what community colleges do were they given the funding to do so. I am not sure that that’s what you are suggesting, though. If so, I am not sure of the advantage. The high schools have plenty to do as is, and this would require them to develop something like a community college system on top of what they have at present.

High schools also have considerable difficulties because they have to satisfy the parents of minor students. This leads to administrating towards liability control, usually at the expense of education. Then the centralized “educational reform” proffered by politicians generally amounts to removing or dumbing down any information not directly related to an employable task. Critical thinking gets skipped or repressed. That happens plenty in universities, too, but it is easier to find islands of greater creativity within the looser system.

Maybe there should be a very different high school setup that has these qualities. But I don’t think we should be testing people to see whether they should be educated, still less to see whether their schools should be funded. I think we should just test people to see how we might best help them be educated.