Monday, March 20, 2006
Howler of the Year, or, Shame on Tamara Draut
True so far.
Then, she gets to the details.
Her chapter on higher education starts promisingly, noting that the increased wage premium for bachelor’s degree holders over college grads reflects not higher wages for college grads, but lower ones for high school grads. People go to college to play economic defense. Okay. Then she notes the increased levels of student loan indebtedness of today’s grads, which she traces, correctly, to a combination of rapidly-rising tuition and decreased reliance on grants. So far, so good. Then she gets to community colleges, which enroll nearly half of all college students in the U.S. The subchapter heading is...and I swear, I’m not making this up...
Better Than Nothing: Community College (it’s on page 35)
Astonishingly, she manages to top that on page 36:
“Unlike universities, community colleges aren’t geared solely to the needs of undergraduates.”
Although it’s only March, this is a strong contender for Howler of the Year.
If you’ve ever been to a university, you would have noticed graduate students. You also would have noticed faculty who only teach graduate students, and graduate students who teach undergraduate students. You would have noticed faculty jockeying to avoid lower-level undergrad courses like the plague. You would have noticed gargantuan sums of cash going into football stadiums, and research labs, and student centers with climbing walls.
If you wander around your typical community college, you would find actual faculty teaching lower-level undergraduate courses. You would not find a football stadium. You would not find substantial research labs. You would not find climbing walls. You would also find much lower tuition levels, reflecting the no-frills atmosphere and allowing the non-wealthy to attend.
Draut goes on to complain that it’s a travesty that millions of ‘college-ready’ students are shunted into community colleges, rather than ‘real’ colleges.
This, from someone bemoaning the rise of student loan debt. Give. Me. A. Break.
Although you wouldn’t know it from Draut’s book, many students who start at cc’s transfer to four-year schools upon receiving their associate’s degree (or even before). Our stats show that our grads graduate their four-year schools at higher rates than their own ‘native’ students do, which I suspect is at least somewhat a reflection of how seriously the upper-level schools take intro courses.
(As near as I can tell, cc’s exist in her estimation solely to remediate. Yet, in the real world, we catch flak for remediating too much, and not catering enough to the ‘college-ready’ student. I think she spent too much time in Manhattan.)
In fact, there are states in which the entire public higher education system is built on transfer. In Washington state, for example, the U of Washington doesn’t even teach freshman or sophomore courses. Students are expected to transfer them in from cc’s, and to start as juniors. Of course, to know that, she would have had to have done her research. You know, like they do at universities.
The shame of it is that such catastrophic failures mar what could otherwise be a useful book. The topic of the book as a whole is a good one. The ‘housing bubble’ in the areas where the jobs are puts young people in a bind: go where you can find work but not housing, or go where you can find housing but not work. In my area, house prices have roughly doubled in the last five years, and they were high before that. If I were just breaking in now, I’d be hosed. This is a real problem. Real solutions are hard to imagine. Draut’s book does absolutely nothing to help, and it could actually hurt, if anybody important actually reads it. Shame on Tamara Draut.
Then just the other day, I was sitting in on a conversation about work-family balance and someone (a staff member like myself) suggested a housing subsidy so that people could live nearby (helping with the commute issue). I again cited the average housing costs. They had no idea.
It amazes me how clueless some people are.
Like you said, a little research goes a long way. :)
I think it's safe to conclude that Draut is going on secondhand information alone when she writes this stuff.
And by the way, I really hate it when 4-year colleges try to fill the same role as community colleges (e.g. offering 2-year or Associate's degrees). Two different but related roles, people -- it's not hard to understand if you just do a little research.
I'd also add that we have a lot of students at our place who would be MUCH better served by community colleges (and not for remediation purposes) but are in our school, and hating it, because they also have this feeling that cc's aren't real schools.
And Robert, I disagree -- a huge amount of our jobs is remediation. It's just that we have to do it in the context of real university-level classes. Or some of us do -- those of us who are still grading essay exams while our colleagues in the same field are already on break because their grading amounted to running the scan-tron machine.
Here I am, all het up, and some fact comes along and complicates things. Grrr. This must be how Rumsfeld feels all the time.
why is it, when one applies for a cc teaching job, one has to carefully tailor one's application latter to foreground how much you are committed to teaching undergrads as opposed to pursuing research? (not that both are not embraced, but a difference emphases).
I would be ROTFLMAO if this level of ignorance wasn't so sad.
I agree with sp-- this sounds like a call to action for you, Dean Dad!
I taught in a biotechnology program at Seattle Central Community College for several years and 30-50% of our students already had bachelor's degrees. This is true for other community college biotech programs, too (e.g. Shoreline CC, Austin CC, City College of San Fransciso, and more).
I can also confirm that UW does offer courses for freshmen and sophomores.
As to the comment about community colleges not just serving undergraduates-- mine doesn't. There are a lot of people like me, who have degrees but like to take courses; there are people (degreed or not) taking career-enhancing courses like Introduction to Adobe Photoshop; and there are high school kids getting a headstart on college classes. It's a wonderful mix and I love it, certainly not just a bunch of 18- and 19-year-olds.
(slate review is http://www.slate.com/id/2134007/ )
Many more hoped to transfer than actually did, mostly for financial reasons. About a decade ago, we figured out it would easily take $1,000 in money and a ton of self-esteem to get our folks beyond the county.
But transfer ed, voc ed, art and music and drama and cross-cultural opportunites did abound...and our trasnfers did "as well or bettre than" 4-year uni. students consistently, too...