Monday, July 13, 2015

Back When I Was a College Student . . .

Posted By on Mon, Jul 13, 2015 at 1:00 PM

As a rule, I don't write "Back in the good old days" posts. Nostalgia doesn't cloud my memory enough that I forget all the bad things that went on when I was younger. The "good old days" were the bad old days in lots of ways. When I was teaching, I even refrained from shaming my high school students by telling them how much better we were back when I was a boy. I seem to remember the rallying cry of my youth was "Sex, Drugs and Rock and Roll!" Not to mention, "Turn on, Tune in, Drop out." Makes it kinda hard to take the moral high ground over today's kids.

But here's one thing that was definitely better back in the day. College tuition. When I went to University of California, I paid in the neighborhood of $50 a semester. California state colleges were about half that, and junior colleges—that's the name California gave to community colleges—were tuition free. College students had to find a way to take care of room, board, books and miscellaneous expenses, but tuition wasn't a serious financial consideration.

Which is why the reasonably thoughtful editorial in the Saturday Star, Regents should tighten UA, ASU admissions standards, pissed me off. The editorial said university admission standards should be tightened because graduation rates are too low, which indicates that too many unqualified students are being admitted. That's a reasonable stance. I don't entirely agree, but it's reasonable. But the kicker was an admission by the editorial board that it used to feel differently until tuition went through the roof.
What has changed our thinking about admissions is the high cost of failure. Annual tuition and fees at the UA total about $10,890, up 66 percent from five years ago.
The next paragraph should have explained that tuition isn't a force of nature that goes up and down like the ebb and flow of the tides, that the legislature, in its never ending battle against publicly funded higher education, keeps cutting funding, so tuition keeps rising. But it didn't. The next paragraph jumped right back to graduation rates.

The Star's change of heart plays right into the hands of the conservative agenda: Starve the education beast; complain schools aren't doing a good job, so they don't deserve the funding they're getting; then cut education funding even more because, why should we continue to pay through the nose to support those lousy schools? Rinse and repeat.

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