November 29, 2020

Inconvenient truths be told

Times are difficult for a college student these days. This fact is glaringly obvious, Webster University students not excluded. Those who attend classes at an institution of higher learning probably do so to earn a degree to get a leg up pursuing a career in their field.

But are universities and colleges perfect in regards to helping these students?

Richard Vedder, director of the Center for College Affordability and Productivity, released an opinion article in the Chronicle of Higher Education in mid-January entitled “12 Inconvenient Truths About American Higher Education.” In this piece, he highlights 12 aspects of higher education that are “shortco

mings,” of universities and colleges. As a Webster student, I thought I should give my brief reactions to a few of his points.

— “Too many students pursue traditional bachelor’s degrees.”

Vetter wrote that too many college students are earning degrees in career fields where there aren’t enough available jobs.  I’m not sure what a traditional bachelor’s degree is. Would it be a degree in a field with a high number of jobs? Is it a bachelor’s in a field such as accounting or business administration? In the 2009-2010 academic year, 363 Webster students graduated with a bachelor’s in business administration and almost 2,300 with an MBA.

Other than perhaps a degree in a science, such as chemistry or geology, Webster has a variety of degrees in nearly every discipline, so, even if this point is verified, Webster would be fine.

— “Many students study and learn little.”

I can see some merit in this, but also a lot of bull. In the article, Vetter talks about a book, “Academically Adrift,” which says students in college today read less and study less. This results in less-than-perfect writing skills and critical thinking abilities. While not everyone is going to be a novelist  or be able to solve a Rubik’s cube, this doesn’t speak truth for all higher education students.

Students need to apply themselves in order to succeed. Some students may absorb information easier or faster than their classmates. Yes, students may be studying less overall, but it doesn’t mean we are getting stupider.

— “Undergraduate students are often neglected.”

During my time at Webster, I have discovered this to be untrue. Webster University has approximately 15,000 graduate students worldwide; compare this to about 4,700 undergrads. While graduates outnumber undergrads such as me almost 2 to 1, I don’t feel the school favors me any less than the master’s degree students.

Tim Doty is a junior media communications major and opinions editor for The Journal.

— “Most students do not graduate on time.”

Well, duh. Each student is different. Some spend four years at Webster and get a bachelor’s, many are grad students who are here for two years to get another degree, some are transfer students, and some just need an extra semester for whatever reason. Vedder said this is probably due to less preparation academically by students than the lack of ability to pay for tuition.

— “Federal student financial aid doesn’t work.”

Vetter said federal financial aid is usually given to those who can actually afford the tuition at the school, but how many students or families of students have between $20,000 and $40,000 just lying around to pay for school? I can say without a doubt that I would not be attending Webster without student loans, financial aid and scholarships. Yes, I will be working to pay off some of those loans, but it is for a good reason.

Even with these few inconveniences, I am glad I made the choice to attend a higher education institution. Schools have their downsides and shortcomings. It’s about weighing the good versus the bad. Hopefully, we make the decisions that are right for us.

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