Seeing college as an entitlement, many students slack off in high school, take remedial courses in college and never finish a degree, writes Jackson Toby, an emeritus Rutgers sociology professor, on Minding the Campus.
. . . most of the responsibility for the relatively low rate of college graduation compared with enrollment is a result of misleading students and their parents into thinking that merely attending college will lead to well-paid and interesting jobs without pointing out that mere attendance is not enough. Students need to learn something at college.
Federal grants and loans are handed out with no regard for academic performance, encouraging entitlement thinking, he writes. To encourage students to work hard in primary and secondary school and college, student loans should be available only to low-income students with good academic performance.
However, Pell Grants should not be limited to good students, Toby argues.
(Grants) do not burden students with debts that they may not be able to repay and they do not burden the economy with complex financial instruments that can produce a credit crisis. Moreover, student grants that ignore academic merit are appealing as an expression of society’s interest in making higher education available even to students who have not done well in high school.
He suggests Pell Grants to poorly prepared students come with a warning that their college success is uncertain and an offer of remedial help in college. Toby envisions federally funded remedial classes for Pell Grant recipients who seek help. Those who reject help would be ineligible for student loans, which most low-income students need to complete a degree.
Toby thinks this would inspire students to work harder in school. I think it might turn B- students into B students, but I’m not sure the message would get through to C and D students. Students with poorly educated parents often have no sense of how well they need to read, write or calculate in order to pass college classes. If they’re passed along in allegedly college-prep classes in high school, they think they’re good to go to college. (Some think a D average in the easiest possible classes is good enough.) Telling students they’re on the remedial track at the age of 18 isn’t much help.