Mixed Messages

Mixed messages abound in the education world these days.  We want to graduate more students, but we want to make it harder to graduate; we want to add math, science, and foreign language requirements (read: add teachers), but we don’t want to increase funding for education.  And those are just a couple of examples from high school.

Higher Ed is in a similar predicament.  The goals are noble and good, but the means to achieve them are dwindling.  To wit:

Anyone who has recently been a college student, or any parent of a college student, knows that one of the biggest challenges to graduating on time is to get into the classes one needs, when one needs them.  Offering more sections, more frequently, would undoubtedly improve the college graduation rate.  Offering fewer sections (with more students in each) less frequently cannot possibly yield improvement in the graduation rate — it will have the opposite effect.

But to keep it simple, the analogy is thus:  jump as high as you can.  Next, you must jump 50% higher… so dig a hole, stand in it, and try again.

Let me know if this works for you.  Like my physics major and rugby player daughter tells me, “gravity sucks.”

4 Responses to “Mixed Messages”

  1. on 18 Feb 2010 at 10:35 am Joel

    Good to see you posting again, Netmom.

    “Anyone who has recently been a college student, or any parent of a college student, knows that one of the biggest challenges to graduating on time is to get into the classes one needs, when one needs them.”

    Do you have data (not just personal anecdotes) to support this assertion? My impression was that the biggest challenges to graduating college on time for most students (not yours) are actually financial resources and academic preparedness.

    “The goals are noble and good, but the means to achieve them are dwindling.”

    Heh. For public colleges and universities, your list omits the single biggest reason why the means to achieve them are dwindling: lack of money.

    Until the citizens of Tennessee man up and decide to pay for what they say they want, they will fall short of the noble goals. University professors don’t work for free (ask your friend Instapundit). Excellence costs money; in this case, tax money. If you don’t want higher taxes, don’t expect better public services. That is the law of financial gravity.

  2. on 18 Feb 2010 at 10:46 am Joel

    Here is a study that will provide more useful insight into the barriers to 4-year graduation than your daughter’s personal experience getting the classes in her major at UT-K:

    http://nces.ed.gov/Pubsearch/pubsinfo.asp?pubid=2007161

  3. on 18 Feb 2010 at 11:24 am Netmom

    Joel, don’t try to argue with me when we agree. It’s just awkward. Actually, my daughters have been pretty lucky in getting their classes when they needed them (not much competition for space in upper division math and physics classes), so it’s not anecdotes from them I’m relying on.

    If more students need to take courses at community colleges, but fewer people are working at community colleges, there will be fewer sections and fewer seats available to serve more students. Of course, the only answer to that problem is money.

    Where we might disagree would be where that money should come from — what to tax, who to tax, or whether to cut some other state program instead.

  4. on 18 Feb 2010 at 2:47 pm Joel

    “not much competition for space in upper division math and physics classes”

    Still? Guess things haven’t changed much in 35 years.

    “Where we might disagree would be where that money should come from — what to tax, who to tax, or whether to cut some other state program instead.”

    1. Income. Progressively.
    2. Tennessee residents.
    3. Good luck. If you wait for that, you’re doomed.

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