‘If you can’t pay for college, don’t go’

Back in college after 28 years — and surprised by all the remedial classes — a carpenter calls for cutting Pell Grants for low-income students.  Community college has become “an extension to high school,” he writes.

Also on Community College Spotlight: California spends less per community college student than other states, but more per degree earned.

About Joanne


  1. I wouldn’t limit college attendance to only those who can afford to pay for it themselves (or with parental assistance). However, I would set minimum academic criteria for financial aid. I would also replace grants with loans that are forgiven upon completion of a degree or certificate.

  2. Christina Lordeman says:

    I think this is first and foremost an academic issue, not an economic one. Students who are not academically ready should not be using up anyone’s time and resources in a 4-year college or university. In our efforts to make college attainable for everyone, we have dumbed down our universities so much that the degrees issued from them are largely meaningless – just like high school diplomas. College isn’t for everyone, and it shouldn’t have to be. There are plenty of good jobs out there that do not require the kind of academic work a 4-year degree should entail. We need to stop trying to get everyone to get a degree and instead focus on making those degrees actually stand for something. High school diplomas became meaningless awhile ago; now it’s Bachelor’s degrees. Before long, even advanced degrees will be nothing more than a fancy piece of paper.

    • Agreed, and “academically ready” should be defined by SAT/ACT scores; grade inflation and huge differences among schools have rendered GPAs highly suspect.

      Also, if colleges only admit kids ready for college work, less resources will be needed for academic support.

      • tim-10-ber says:

        Well said…also if proposing that student loans are to be forgiven the graduate should be required to work in the public sector (medicine, not-for profit, education, etc) for a minimum of 10 years…

        • We already have outright grants that never need to be paid back. I don’t have a problem with giving rather than loaning money to low-income students to attend college. I do, however, think there needs to be greater incentive to get students to actually complete their degrees or certificates. If they know they’d be on the hook for thousands of dollars if they drop out vs. $0 if they finish, that’s likely going to significantly boost graduation rates.

          • Roger Sweeny says:

            The big, big, big, big, big problem with this idea is that it sets up a big, big, big, big incentive for schools to pass anyone who borrowed money.

            “We have to find a way to pass this person. Otherwise, they’ll be in debt for the rest of their lives.”

          • This issue of inflating performance is usually sticky and a really bad idea. It was the issue in the 60s, when lots of sympathetic professors gave good grades to guys, to keep them safe from their draft boards, and the result of the push to raise HS graduation rates now. It’s also driving the 8th-grade-algebra and AP-for-all manias. It’s far better not to admit the unqualified at all; to HS, to CC, to voc ed programs or to college. The only valid measures are the ones, like the SSAT/ACT/SAT that the k-12 system can’t game.

          • If receiving the financial aid in the first place were conditional on the student being academically qualified for college, you’ve already weeded out most of the students who drop out because they are unable to do the work. There just needs to be an incentive to finish the degree/certificate for the not-insignificant percentage of students who can do the work if they actually put a higher priority on academics than on socializing. We all have acquaintances who were perfectly capable of finishing college but who partied too much and wound up dropping out.

  3. Stacy in NJ says:

    Here’s a better idea. Let’s do away with high school for everyone. Let’s provide loans and forgiveness of those loans upon high school graduation. I’m betting students and their parents will take high school a whole lot more seriously if they’re financially responsible for the results. Oh, we also need several graduation exit exams. One for those that are college (4 year schools) bound, and one for those that are trade, community college, or straight to work bound. Loans are forgiven upon passing said exit exam. Also, if students are capable of taking and passing the exit exam after less than 4 years of high school, they should receive a “bonus” payment to be applied to college tuition.

    It drives me wild that we’re paying for high school via taxes for students who are graduated and then need to take remedial classes at either community or a four year college. The waste in resources is unbelievable. People, parents and students, simple don’t value what they get for “free”.

    • Stacy in NJ says:

      Just to continue my thought experiment a bit further: If a student graduates but is not capable of passing the exit exam for which they were prepared for, let’s hold their teachers, principal, and super intendant responsible for their “tuition”. Graduating a student who hasn’t reached a minimum level of competency is fraud.

      • Amen. I’d take it even further, down to ES where the whole mess starts. ITBS or the equivalent (not the current state tests); no advancement unless on grade level. Ditto for entry to MS and HS (SSAT, just like the private schools do). Also, drop required schooling to age 14 or satisfactory completion of 8th grade. Any complaints of kids running loose on the streets merely bolster the idea that schools should serve as daycare.

        The k-12 system should be responsible for any remediation of kids who can’t pass exit exams; with no additional funding. The current system of giving more money to the worst performers is perverse and it doesn’t end up in the classrooms anyway.

        • Mark Roulo says:

          The k-12 system should be responsible for any remediation of kids who can’t pass exit exams; with no additional funding.

          This only works if a school can refuse to take students.

          Otherwise, especially at the poorer performing schools or the schools with the more difficult to teach children, you just build up a backlog of students who must be remediated with no funds to do so other than the funds for teaching this year’s crop of new students.

          • Obi-Wandreas says:


            The moment a school actually has any sort of control over the makeup of their population, the equation changes entirely. You simply can’t compare selective schools with those forced to take everyone.

            The difficult students have to go somewhere. But that place needs to be identified as such, and given the resources (staff, time, etc) to deal with it appropriately. Otherwise, it’s not fair to any of the students.

        • tim-10-ber says:

          I would love to see the K-12 systems foot the bill…that is the fastest way I know to get the K-12 system fixed and serious about educating students rather than just taking tax-payer dollars and playing at education…

    • Sean Mays says:

      The average per pupil revenue spend in the US is about 12k per annum. 180 days, 6 classes a day call it about 10 bucks a class (it’s 11 and change). Work out a sliding scale see what happens. Just a little gedanken experiment…

      • Stacy in NJ says:

        Great idea. Let’s also do way with those stupid elective requirements like PE for high schoo, tool. I know we want our kids to be well rounded, but most of those classes are marginally valuable. Let’s make them truly elective. Offer them as enrichment on a sliding fee scale based upon parental income. kids, poor kids particularly, should be exposed to music, art, PE, and other worthwhile electives if it’s something their interested in. But let’s not force everyone to takes these classes as graduation requirements.

        My local YMCA offers swimming, fencing, martial arts, gymnastics, basketball, running clubs, and a plethora of other physical activities, teams, and clubs. They also offer music lessons, computer design and video production classes, and art studios. The list is unbelievable. I know some communities don’t have these types of resources, but they would probably spring up if they were subsidized in place of public school classes.

        We using public education as a source of union employment, driving up the cost of many “services”. Let’s stop doing that.

        • Agree, again. I’m much against school PE both because what I have seen is very poor quality, the kids most in need of exercise have been managing to avoid it since I was a kid and at MS-HS levels, it’s highly inefficient. MS-HS kids need to shower after exercise; combined with changing in and changing out, it reduces the actual exercise time to irrelevancy. It’s much better to do it either before or after school.

          As I’ve posted elsewhere, art history and music appreciation can and should be incorporated into the regular academic curriculum because they are part of cultural literacy. The rest; after school, run by some other entity.

  4. Thanks for linking my piece that was originally just a comment to the question of “What Would You Change About School”.

    For quite some time, I have had the feeling of a lone wolf on this subject. It’s gratifying that others think in the same general lines.