My Daughter’s University Is Ripping Her (and Us) Off!

Editors Features January / January 17, 2019

-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:

  • My daughter was livid when one professor who, when asked a question by a student, told her: “Well that’s general knowledge, so you should know that…” That might be excusable, but apparently, the professor then “would go out of her way to single the student out when similar questions were asked” for the rest of the semester.
  • One student expressed how her love for learning is being destroyed at the university, and now she doesn’t even want to go to class. She said: “It’s hard to love learning when the professor and their testing method sucks.’” (Not my words.)
  • Since this university records the professor’s entire lectures, my daughter and her classmates watch their Organic Chemistry videos at 1.75 speed because the professor is such a poor lecturer. She reported that around 15 of the 155 enrolled students even attend class.
  • Several of the students found themselves looking for YouTube videos to teach them because frequently the professor either provides an inadequate explanation or does not explain at all. One student said she has to teach herself via YouTube so she can be successful in a specific class.
  • Universally, they felt the majority of their professors don’t really want to teach; and that they were only teaching as a requirement of their employment. They felt professors didn’t care whether or not they succeeded.  

I then switched the conversation and asked them what they wanted from their college education. Their thoughts were revealing:

  • Professors who make learning more than just rote memory and regurgitation.
  • Connect what they are learning to the real world in which they live.
  • Move away from the midterm/final mode of assessment.
  • That long-term projects or other “things” would assess understanding and learning much more effectively. (One student disclosed how she struggles with tests and how they are the only method of assessment.)

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.  


Jon Bergmann
Jon Bergmann Bergmann
Jon Bergmann is one of the pioneers of the Flipped Classroom Movement. He is leading the worldwide adoption of flipped learning through the Flipped Learning Global Initiative (FLGI) He is working with governments, schools, corporations, and education non-profits. Jon has coordinated and guided flipped learning projects around the globe. Locations include: China, Taiwan, Korea, Australia, the Middle East, Iceland, Sweden, Norway, the United Kingdom, Italy, Spain, Mexico, Canada, South America, and the United States. Jon is the author of nine books including the bestselling book: Flip Your Classroom which has been translated into 13 languages. He is the founder of the global FlipCon conferences which are dynamic engaging events which inspire educators to transform their practice through flipped learning.

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on January 29, 2019

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.

    Jon Bergmann
    on January 29, 2019

    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.

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