Urban universities: Pay to fail

Graduation rates are very low in less-selective urban universities, especially for low-income minority students, writes Kevin Carey on Education Sector. Many students start in remedial classes and never get to college-level work. He looks at math courses offered by the crumbling University of the District of Columbia:

  • 16 sections of “Basic Mathematics”
  • 13 sections of “Introductory Algebra”
  • 9 sections of “General College Math I”
  • 7 sections of “General College Math II”
  • 4 sections of “Intermediate Algebra”
  • 2 sections each of “Pre Calc with Trig I,” “Pre Calc with Trig II,” “Calculus I,” “Calculus II,” and “Calculus III”
  • 1 section each of “Differential Equations,” “Number Theory,” “Linear Algebra,” “Advanced Calculus,” etc.

Seventy percent of UDC students require remedial classes. It’s not surprising that most won’t earn a degree.

Carey writes about “the strange and dangerous idea that educational institutions bear little responsibility for how much their students learn or whether those students earn degrees.”

What can a university do if so many students enter without basic math (and reading) skills? UDC could take a hit on enrollment by sending applicants to community college for remediation. Are there other options?

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Comments

  1. Why exactly is the idea of student responsibility “strange and dangerous”? The auther of the article never says, but uses this line in the conclusion.

    During high school, the responsibility lies mainly with the parents, and to a lesser degree, with the schools and the students.

    But as adults in college, the responsibility rests squarely on the shoulders of the students. To think otherwise is what is truly “strange and dangerous.”

  2. The idea that’s strange and dangerous, although hardly ever addressed, is that the institutions bear no responsibility for how much students learn although it’s both nonsense and demonstrably nonsense.

    That’s why successful institutions can operate cheek-by-jowl with worthless institutions with the worthless institutions not suffering by the comparison.

  3. Hunter McDaniel says:

    “What can a university do if so many students enter without basic math (and reading) skills?”

    How about not admit them in the first place if they don’t have a reasonable chance of success? Just like, you know, not granting mortgages to customers with a high likelihood of default.

  4. Margo/Mom says:

    In the case of UDC, they might consider looking upstream. I am guessing that most of their students are products of a single education systeme. Perhpas they could partner to ensure better high school graduates.

  5. <bWhat can a university do if so many students enter without basic math (and reading) skills?

    Hunter beat me to it – why are they being admitted without basic skills?

  6. Mike, a diag in Texas says:

    For a short while, about a week, there was a move to “back bill” the districts who graduated students that required remedial classes.

    Guess who screamed the loudest? Hint: it wasn’t the universities or community colleges!!

  7. Hunter beat me to it – why are they being admitted without basic skills?

    Because there are dollar bills swirling in their wake, same as the school districts that graduate them as ignorant as the day they were born.

  8. Brandyjane says:

    I wish we could get away from the idea that everyone needs or deserves to go to college. Most of the students who enter college these days shouldn’t need to be there. If a high school diploma actually meant something, more students could enter the workforce with that credential alone and get a decent job. Or if American society stopped being so snobbish toward jobs that should only require a technical or vocational degree, more students would move in that direction.

  9. As Brandyjane said, there’s way to many individuals who are earning worthless college degrees. Think about the current fiscal crisis… how many people would be better able to support themselves if they weren’t saddled with $10,000+ in college loan debt while working in a low-income job because their degree is worthless?

    As for UDC… they have one motivation – to make money. They’re just as willing (if not more) to accept money from people with a 6th grade education as those with a 12th grade education. As the saying goes, a fool and his money are soon parted. Colleges like this are simply taking advantage of the college degree fad.

    Somewhere along the line (probably due to the Cold War space race), our society stopped focusing on the importance of hard work and instead focused on the importance of education. Focusing on education is noble, but unlike hard work, doesn’t necessarily produce something concrete. We have individuals who are lauded (and paid) for their multiple PhDs in fields like transgendered studies, while the plumber, who does a heck of a lot more for our economy, is best known for exposing his buttcrack.

  10. Margo/Mom says:

    “Most of the students who enter college these days shouldn’t need to be there. If a high school diploma actually meant something, more students could enter the workforce with that credential alone and get a decent job.”

    On the other hand, if a high school diploma actually meant something more students would be prepared for college and might choose to go there and complete.

  11. Margo/Mom says:

    …while the plumber, who does a heck of a lot more for our economy, is best known for exposing his buttcrack.

    SS–now don’t be talkin’ bad about Joe!

  12. Simply mentioning the common prejudice against plumbers…

  13. “I ain’t teachin’ at no second-rate high school!”

    –the immortal Marion Barry upon being offered a job at UDC