The Orion

College campuses provides empty promises

Kevin Crittenden

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Kevin Crittenden

College admission letters should come with caution tape.

The implicit promise colleges make to students is a shot at the American dream. But the light at the end of the tunnel is an illusion — it doesn’t exist.

We go to school because we’re taught it will make us more appealing to employers, that we’ll make more money and be able to shrug the drudgery of minimum wage labor.

It doesn’t really guarantee any of this. In fact, the system fails to deliver encouraging results. Forty-one percent of all students fail to graduate on time. Student debt, at an all-time high, forces long-term financial bondage.

Rumors of a lukewarm job market looming outside these air-conditioned walls linger in the air like the central valley smog thickening overhead.

Who should be accountable for these failures? Teachers? Administrators? The government? To blame one group would occlude the fact that all of them are related pieces of a complex system.

This college business machine is not working for the good of the nation.

Consider enrollment management for example; there are people who earn Ph.D.s in order to skim applications for the cream of the crop — not the best and brightest, but applicants who will pay the most.

Poor advising, constantly shifting academic requirements and the college-as-vacation mentality keeps students circling the drain, semester after semester, waiting to be flushed into the real world.

And what about alternatives to college?

People line up for higher education straight out of high school, without enough real-world experience to guide their ambitions in a way that would make college truly useful.

Instead of taking some time off to let perspective develop, pursue personal interests, internships or vocational schools, 18-year-olds blitz to the dorms hoping to figure it all out before the ride is over.

When students arrive, they may not immediately recognize their beautiful campus as a corporate carousel serving a narrow band of interests.

I’ve been here long enough to dream up different, tidy paths that would have brought me to where I am.

If I could do it over again I would have gone to junior college to complete general education requirements, shadowed professionals doing the work I thought I might do and saved up enough money to pay tuition and fees up front.

The debt I’ve incurred is a nonrefundable investment in a brand name that may or may not carry me where I want to go — there’s no warranty on my liberal arts degree.

Kevin Crittenden can be reached at [email protected] or @kevlodius on Twitter.


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College campuses provides empty promises