Degrees of Urgency: Some Thoughts

by Beth Knittle on November 10, 2014

The state recently released “a report to the people of Massachusetts from the Massachusetts department of higher education Oct  2014

It is a pretty lengthy read on why we need more graduates particularly in the STEM fields of nursing and computer science.  The background context is colleges are underfunded.  There was much discussion on how to get graduation rates up and in less then 6 years.  The report was also looking at ways to keep students in state schools and not private schools.  I suggest you read it and come to your own conclusions but here are some of my personal thoughts on the matter.

When I entered  a public college 3 decades or so ago it was expected that students graduated in 4 years and the statistics  colleges reported were the 4 year graduation rate now they report the 6 year graduation rate.

Financial aid is only for 4 years, and often the reason given for the longer time to graduate is students can’t afford the cost.  They need to take time off of to work or slow down the process so they can afford the education.  What happened?  Why such a change?

My daughter now a college junior ended up at a private school for 2 main reasons. (1) the state schools she was accepted to offered zero financial aid – not even federal loans – but the private schools offered considerable aid which made the private school much cheaper then the public alternative. (2) At the state school open houses when a parent asked why it takes 6 years the college representative said they can not guarantee the students can take all the classes they need to graduate in the 4 year period.  In this situation the students have no choice but to go to school longer.  Remember any financial aid if given is only for 4 years. Neither of these reasons are mentioned in the report. Both are reasons my daughter attends a private college.

There is a push for more students to attend college – that is the whole premiss of the report we need more graduates.  Are we building more colleges, are we hiring more staff, building more dorms? Some schools I saw new classroom buildings and dorms going up at some of the private colleges we visited.  That did not seem to be the main priority at the state schools we visited. The report mentioned how more money was given to the state schools – but in the several we visited the money was used to renovate old buildings to become “green” buildings it did not increase capacity for the increased number of students being admitted. The increase in money funded upgraded facilities, not increase capacity nor financial aid.

It is complicated process that seems to have gone off the rails the last several decades.  It is not going to be easy to get things back on track.  I recommend you read the report, each of our personal experiences will let us take something different from it.  Remember there is also a growing trend  to say college is not as necessary  as it once was.

For Further Reading

Why a college degree may not be worth it.

College Ready vs out of the Basement Ready 

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Alexandria November 12, 2014 at 11:40 am

Hi. My name is Alex and I am a student at the University of South Alabama. I find this a very interesting post. When I was a senior in high school, multiple adults drilled into my head that I HAVE to go to college and it will ONLY take four years to get a good job that pays well. I am now noticing that the further I get in school, some of my peers that didn’t go to college are ending up making more money than me. My major is Special Education and I won’t be making much money at all. I will have student loans for probably the rest of my life because of the tuition going up to build a bigger and better football stadium. I am all for school spirit, but why not help the students out? We must make sure future students know that it is very hard and almost impossible to graduate college in four years. Unless the student takes 18 hours per semester, and takes summer classes, he or she won’t be able to graduate within four years. Colleges have drifted away from helping the students succeed, to helping the school grow. Most colleges don’t care about what is best for the student in the long run, they care more about what is better for the school. In my opinion, it shouldn’t take a teacher 5 years to graduate college. (Especially considering the pay that teachers receive) I hope that generations after me receive more help from the college of their choice than mine did.

Dayna November 15, 2014 at 6:22 pm

Hello My name is Dayna and I am a student going to Walden University. I am in my fourth year in my doctorate program which I am trying to major in Education. Very interesting topic that Beth has talked about. It seemed like getting a bachelor degree was only a four year degree very interesting to read this blog to include the first comment that posted on this blog. It is actually taking six years now instead of four years. Then financial aid is only for four years. I graduated in 1996 from high school and even back then it wasn’t unusual to go to a four year college and the time it took was four years. Times have changed since 1996 it does seem with the higher tuition costs college students have to work to make ends meat to include prolonging students to finish college. I am very lucky to say that when I did finish my bachelor degree I was in the military in which they paid for my college tuition and the military also paid for my master degree. Now I am using my G.I. Bill to help pay for my doctorate degree. I do feel sorry for the younger generation to go to college now for the higher costs of tuition they are now consuming student loans which it will take forever or for that matter the whole entire life to pay it back.

Dayna November 15, 2014 at 6:25 pm

Sorry Alexandra you are having a rough time paying for college tuition and then in the end you will have student loans to repay for. I think teachers in general should be getting paid a lot more than what they do. I think teachers should get paid like doctors do. I’m glad you are pushing your way forward to receive your education.

v/r Dayna

Alexandria November 24, 2014 at 10:38 pm

Thanks Dayna! If I didn’t have a passion for teaching, I would be in a higher paying major! Haha! Best wishes to you 🙂

Tabatha Girdlestone January 30, 2015 at 6:21 pm

Hi, my name is Tabatha Girdlestone and I an education major at the University of South Alabama in my junior year. I find this post very interesting and correct. When I was in high school all of my teachers said to get a Bachelor’s degree you will be in school for four years. I guess that was true when they went to college, but since times have changed it is taking five to six years to receive a Bachelor’s degree. When I graduate I will have been enrolled for four years and one semester, but I have also taken summer courses and 16 credit hours each semester. With the cost of tuition increasing it seems like it is taking longer for students to finish college. Most students are having trouble making ends meet with the cost of tuition, books, and living expenses therefore they are taking the bare minimum of credit hours. Financial aid, if received, doesn’t cover the cost of all of the expenses so having a student loan is the next choice. Most students will be paying on their student loans for the rest of their life and that is sad. Considering when students go to college it is so they will be able to have a brighter future, which includes having a higher income than those who did not have a degree. This is also not true anymore, many people have a higher income than those who have a degree and those who have a degree are in more debt. Times have changed and I hope they begin to change for the better of the students.

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