Lumpenprofessoriat recently offered some interesting comments on my post last week on book buy-back schemes (and on Ortho’s comments on that post, too.) Hir post inspired me to write about something that’s been on my mind for several years now, even if it does threaten to out me as a young fogey complaining about “kids these days…and their music, it’s just noise!“ Well, actually, I don’t mind the music so much, but I do have questions about the kids these days.
LumpenProf writes, “Right now, every cut in student aid and every increase in tuition, fees, parking, textbooks, housing, and food creates a cadre of students who can only afford to look at the bottom line and will approach higher education with the same eye towards cost savings they use in a trip to Wal-mart.” Ze argues (like Ortho) that students are just responding rationally when they sell their books, although ze disagrees with Ortho’s notion that cooperating in book buyback schemes will bring on the Revolution faster. “Students are behaving like poorly paid workers. They want payday to get here as soon as possible,” says LumpenProf. I get this–and don’t entirely disagree–but I want to address the costs of higher education in this post. There is a lot of money being spent, but I’m afraid it’s not just state legislatures and university administrations that are making bad decisions about investing in higher education. (The following comments apply only to my university–I realize that there are all kinds of different institutions and all kinds of different college students these days, so your mileage may vary. I’ll be interested to get your opinions vis-a-vis what you see at your institutions of higher learning, whether you’re a faculty member, a student, or simply an informed and interested member of your community.
A few years ago, when I was fairly new at my current university (my one and only experience with a large, public university), I commented on how many of my students seemed to have full-time or nearly full-time jobs, and how that inevitably interfered with their educations. Jobs, not their educational needs or personal interests, seemed to dictate their schedules (as in, “I can’t take any afternoon MWF classes because of my job.” “I have to take all Tuesday-Thursday classes because of my job.” What if the senior seminar you need is Wednesday at 2 p.m.? Guess we’ll be seeing you semester after next, too.) I commented sympathetically about this, saying that I felt sorry that so many of our students had to work so hard, until a senior colleague of mine (who’s a hard-edged libertarian) said, “I don’t feel sorry for them at all.” I was shocked by what I heard as his callousness–we teach at a large, public university. Many of our students who seem like traditional, full-time college-aged students have children already, in addition to jobs, and are enmeshed in webs of responsibilities that I (like most of my colleagues) was largely free of until my early thirties. Many other of our students are in their late twenties to mid-forties, trying to earn that B.A. that eluded them when they partied too hard/got married/had a child/ran out of money the first time around. My colleague continued, “When I was in college [in the late 1970s] we lived in a dorm. We didn’t have apartments, we didn’t have cars, we didn’t go out. We had a an appropriately simple lifestyle. Most of our students are working to support an adult lifestyle, not to put themselves through school.”
More after the flip… Continue Reading »