-by Jon Bergmann-
Universities should be places where students are taught by the best and brightest people on the planet. Where they are challenged to think and receive a world-class education. These are places where students are supposed to love to learn, explore, and ask hard questions with their professors at their side. Unfortunately, quite the opposite is happening at my daughter’s university, and likely at many around the country. At $35,000+ per year and postgraduate loans that take years to pay off, this is a big rip-off.
She attends a sizeable land-grant university that touts itself as an innovative place to learn and grow. Verbiage on the institution’s website espouses how students can explore their passions and curiosities. But instead, she has been in class after class where professors lecture to mostly empty lecture halls, and often there is little regard for the students and their learning.
I recently chatted with her and a couple of her friends about their experiences at the university, and they all agreed that they were not getting their money’s worth out of their college education. They were quick to say that they have also had some excellent experiences with a few professors, but that this was the exception — not the rule. When I asked them how many of their classes were worthwhile and taught well, they estimated that only five of their collective 25 classes were places where they learned and felt their professors cared about their learning.
Below are a few of the instances they shared with me:
I then switched the conversation and asked them what they wanted from their college education. Their thoughts were revealing:
It’s time for a wake-up call for universities. My guess is that research and publications is what’s rewarded at my daughter’s university. In fact, one of my daughter’s professors talked more about her research than actually teaching the “introductory” class. Similarly, while the chemistry department is incredibly successful in their research, a higher number of students are failing the courses. It seems that teaching is not rewarded or valued even though the website touts that amazing teaching occurs at this University. Sadly, that is seemingly fiction and only a marketing ploy to get students to enroll.
It’s high time for universities to focus on teaching and learning so that our students (and us parents) aren’t ripped off even more.
Isn’t it crazy that we think $35K is a deal? I’m also glad your daughter is getting a reasonable education in spite of the extra year. Thanks for sharing.
First off 35K+. That’s a deal compared to the modest state university tuition charged by the school my daughter attends. Happily, she is enjoying and feeling challenged by most of her classes, but some of them seem to be designed more as “gatekeepers” then opportunities for learning. By this, I mean, the class is structured so that the average final grade is a C- or D. I had to explain to my A student why it was acceptable that her best efforts only earned her a C, in order to have her not be emotionally crushed. The teacher did let the students know her average grades were low, but I think it only fair for the professors to also add that the course is being used to weed out those without the grit to pass, whether you make it the first time through or have to repeat it. I’m fine with gatekeeper classes, as long as everyone understands this is the case. My real issue about my daughter not getting her money’s worth has more to do with the lack of availability of classes, forcing some kids to take 5 years when they could have finished in 4 had they been able to get into the classes they needed. But that’s a different discussion.