Wednesday, December 12, 2007

The Walk of Shame

This is a dirty little industry secret.

In some necks of the woods – moneyed ones, especially – this is the time of year when we start to see a parade of young men and women with hangdog expressions and very angry parents. The students went 'away' to expensive residential colleges in September, and partied their way to a GPA that starts with a zero. Come December or January, their parents drag them to the local cc as a sort of combination boot camp and purgatory, usually with some sort of “improve or else” mandate to the student.

(I've had some remarkably frank discussions with parents who say things like “I'm not paying twenty thousand dollars per semester for him to cut class! He can cut class here for much less!” It's hard to argue with logic like that.)

It's a delicate situation. We take all comers, including those who haven't quite pulled their stuff together yet. We're all about second chances, knowing full well that 18 year olds sometimes overdo it a bit when they get their first escape from parental supervision. Some will prosper with the second chance, and some won't. We know that from the start.

But there's really no graceful way to advertise this.

“Repent Your Sins! Start Over at Nearby CC!”

“What Happened at Snooty U Stays at Snooty U.”

“Dorm-Free since 1963!”

And it doesn't do much for office morale when students and their parents openly refer to enrolling at your college as a form of punishment. It's often followed by the always endearing “if you do well here, you can transfer to a real college.”


Serving these students is part of our mission. We're glad to do it, and I'm sure that some of these students actually use the second chance productively and get back on track. (I haven't seen any numbers on this group specifically, and I imagine the data gathering would be a bit delicate.) But it's a mission we really don't discuss much, and that few folks are comfortable embracing publicly.

So I'll just float it on the internet, and hope that readers who see students in this situation think of the local cc as a viable option for a do-over. Just be very, very diplomatic when you make the suggestion.