While American public schools get drilled over doing a shoddy job, often ignored is the job of American colleges … where barely 50% of those who start a degree eventually finish one.
Some will say “but at the good colleges, they are doing a great job … graduation rates are far above 50% … but I could say the same thing about good public high schools … they all end up lumped together.
On the other hand … college is supposed to be tough and it is supposed to be something that is “not for everyone”. The problem in our little democracy built on some myth of equal opportunity for all is that holding a college degree is now the number 1 way to alter your class standing in our society. Its hardly a guarantee …. but it is close to one … even simply having a lot of money can’t buy that.
Amazingly, colleges have long had the power to chagne this …. but they haven’t … part of that is that many college graduates will tell you that more than any bit of single knowledge, college is supposed to teach you to stand on your own two feet and do things for yourself …. just in case you high school and/or your family did too good a job spoon feeding you, now you fail when you sit back and wait for others to do things for you.
Colleges, however have done this for decades … but not for all students …. just select ones …. the ones that the college had a vested interest in making sure they didn’t fail.
Ah …. now you know the groups that I am talking about.
We’re talking about athletes …. College athletics is amazing! First of all … it loses colleges millions of dollars a year …. oh sure …. if you are an SEC or Big-10+2 team, you get to share in nearly a billion dollars in TV revenue … and don’t forget those big payouts in the bowl games …. but this is ultimately a fantasy! That money evaporates quickly supporting the non-revenue sports … not to mention the expenses …. at least one team that went to a BCS bowl this year chalked the entire bowl experience as a net loss financcially despit ethe guaranteed 10 million dollar payout … when you account for transporting the team, equipment, housing, transporting the band and cheerleaders, their housing and food …. tickets to the game, etc.
But for some reason, these schools NEED that money …. and that money comes from having successful athletes, and far too often that means admitting borderline cases who have a higher probability of failure and spending even more money to keep them eligible.
So these schools have special dorms (private apartments) for athletes (with mandatory study and quiet time) … they have special tutors that are paid retainers to be on staff for the athletes’ needs (I know one of these tutors who works at a mid-major school located within 200 miles of Chicago). In some cases they have hired “mentors” (read: people to follow them around and keep them out of trouble/get them out of trouble). In some cases the booster clubs provide some illegal assistance which occasionally is caught but also flies under the radar quite a bit. Does it help? Sure!
However, if this helps retain some rather extreme borderline cases …. couldn’t a little money for things like this really help some slightly less-borderline non-athletes who could really flourish with a little help? The answer obviously is: sure!
This of course leads to the idea: should colleges and universities be providing soooo much help … a little help is good …. but at what point does the college experience become high school with bigger buildings? At what point is the student being catered to so much that they get a college degree no longer worth the paper it is printed on?
At least part of this is the business model intruding again into education where it has no (pardon my French) fu(#!ng business! Since students are “customers”, they should have the right to demand a certain level of customer service. In business, that ‘s great. In education, it is a recipe for disaster.
I will just close by saying: not all athletes; not even most athletes are “borderline” college students. A vast majority are fine upstanding students.