"Look to the left. Look to the Right. One student won’t pass this class." This is the fictitious comment supposedly made by college professors weeding out a freshman class.
The real situation is different.
"Look to the left. Look to the Right. Wait a minute. There is an empty seat. Some student should be in it. But they aren’t coming to class."
So they are wasting their money or their parent’s money. So what?
They are pulling state tuition support money away from good students, and contributing to a cheapening of the American college degree.
In the 1980s, just over 40 percent of our high school graduates went on to a tertiary school. Today more than 70 percent do. As a result, the Kansas budget supporting higher education is spread thinner. In the 1980s, Kansas provided two dollars for each one dollar a student paid in tuition to support the instructional costs at Kansas public universities. Today, with dramatically more students attending tertiary schools, state dollars are spread over far more students. Kansas now underwrites less than a dollar for each tuition dollar paid by students.
So the student that rarely shows up in class is not only costing the Kansas taxpayer who is subsidizing that cost, but also results in good students paying substantially more in tuition.
ACT estimates that only one-fourth of the students who take the ACT test in Kansas are college-ready. The study, "Beyond the Rhetoric..." by the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education, finds that 60 percent of incoming college students need remedial coursework. At community colleges the rate is 75 percent, explaining why their graduation rates (for students pursuing a 2-year degree) are only 25 percent nationwide. And the American Institute for Research estimates that Kansas taxpayers spent more than 93 million dollars on students who dropped out after just one year of college between 2003-to-2008.
Private and research schools have higher retention and graduation rates because they are selective. Nevertheless, across the United States, higher education commissions and boards of regents are pressing faculty to increase retention and graduation rates. Much of this is in response to political calls for the U.S. to turn out more college graduates.
Faculty, supposedly the gatekeepers of academic rigor, are in a difficult economic situation to openly resist such "orders from above." And many states are imposing financial penalties on public universities if they fail to graduate a higher quota. The more we are tuition-driven, the more we recruit every warm body.
College-able students should be concerned, and not just because the missing students that should be sitting beside them in class are costing them higher tuition. When they look to the left and look to the right at graduation ceremonies, the scholarly student may find that the absent student is standing beside them to receive a degree too.
Whether it is higher tuition for the good student today, or cheapened degrees tomorrow, the time is overdue for enforcing a hard-21 ACT requirement for undergraduates entering Kansas public universities, both for entering freshmen and community college transfers.
Neither Kansas nor our college-able students can afford higher tuition costs and cheapened degrees.