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Author Topic: The Four Year College Myth
philnotfil
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boston.com
quote:
A while back, Gerald Chertavian, a successful businessman turned education reformer, posed that question to a gathering of 400 education officials and public-policy people at a New England Board of Higher Education summit. When he asked who in the crowd had a college degree, just about every hand in the room went up. When he asked how many had earned that degree four years after high school, about 80 percent of the hands stayed up.

Then he lowered the boom: All these people charged with shaping education policy were far outside the mainstream. Census data from 2005 tell us that only 28 percent of American adults have a bachelor's degree. As for how many adults took the "traditional" path and received their BA within four years of high school, some rough number crunching of federal education data shows that the percentage dips to below 10 percent. By definition, that's no longer traditional. It's radical, and it makes you wonder why we still call them four-year colleges.

quote:
Fluidity is the defining characteristic of today's college student. Things promise to get only more fluid as the recession forces more people to consider lower-cost alternatives like community colleges and part-time status. But our rigid higher-ed system fights with this fluidity, making it hard for many students to adapt to college life and making the transfer process more complicated than it needs to be. The cost is lost credits, time, money, and opportunity. The fact that transfer students are typically not counted in federal graduation-rate data only strengthens the argument that public policy is operating from a distorted sense of reality.
Do we change colleges to be more functional for students who don't take four years to graduate, or do we change students to graduate in four years?
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TommySama
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I went to my "adviser" for the first time yesterday. I can graduate with a BA next spring if I take a summer class this month after only 3 years. However I want to avoid the real world for as long as possible, so I opted for the double major ^^.
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Viking_Longship
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I changed majors midway so I took 4 and a half years plus a semester part-time. % years is pretty common now so I'd say we probably should make it a little more fluid. Then again I think it already is.

I also think we should build up the community colleges and move away from the huge universities so more people can get the degree without the horrendous costs of room and board which frequently is much higher than tuition.

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Wayward Son
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quote:
Then he lowered the boom: All these people charged with shaping education policy were far outside the mainstream. Census data from 2005 tell us that only 28 percent of American adults have a bachelor's degree.
What boom? Do you want our leaders to be part of the top 28 percent or not? [Wink]
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Lina Inverse
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Not if they're assuming that their experience is the norm.
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msquared
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I think I heard somewhere that some University admins were bemoaning that recently more students were graduating in 4 years then they had in the past 10-15. The lack of 5-6 year students was cutting into profits. They wanted students to stay longer to get the same degree.

msquared

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TomDavidson
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Personally, I'd like people to remember that college is not and should not be considered necessary for the development of job skills.
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msquared
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I agree. Too many people think that you have to go to college. I see many technical jobs, such as car repair, HVAC installation and repair, plumbers, etc. that can lead to good incomes and jobs for kids.

msquared

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TomDavidson
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Heck, I'm going broader than that. I'm not just saying that there are still good technical jobs available to the voc-tech crowd. I'm saying that there are plenty of jobs out there that are demanding degrees for no reason. I see people insisting that careers which absolutely do not require college -- like business, journalism, elementary education, restaurant management -- now require a four-year diploma at the entry level.
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The Drake
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What exactly do people want to change about the college system to make it more "fluid"? The four-year program is a best-case scenario for most majors (typically). My own engineering program required a class overload in Junior year. I was a traditional four year student - but I had a meltdown in my Senior year and had to push - making me a five-year grad.

I wasn't alone - several of my classmates had to push at least one semester to graduate. So what?

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Lobo
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I did the LDS mission thing after freshman year so I took 6 years. One of the reasons BYU scores lower on some rankings is the fact that they have a very small percentage of students who graduate in 4 years...
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mdgann
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There is also to consider the vast range of difficulty of classes and the number of credit hours required between degrees. Under the semester system at my school and engineer taking a physics class got 3 credits while if a elementary education student took the same class they received 5 hours. It was the recourse the school took to try and keep the hours down in the engineering courses. No one I knew finished in 4 years. Unless you started exactly on track, you would end up waiting a semester or two for some of the advanced classes to be taught again.
I am telling my sons to become plumbers and work for themselves. All the plumbers I know make more than I do and have more time off. go figure.

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Mormegil
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If I had it to do over again, I'd have gotten an AS just for general education but then gone to a trade school. Could have been an electrician or a plumber and made more money. And since I spent all my free time remodeling my house now anyway...
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RickyB
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The idea behind the four year college is to extend adolescence, extend the period of time in which young people are removed from direct competition with the general adult population.
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RickyB
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Journalism I can understand. You want well rounded people, who've been exposed to things. I personally would not insist on it in hiring, but in journalism there is a reason.
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TommySama
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Heh, Ricky. I am deliberately taking an extra year for just that reason. No way I want to get out of college into the real world with debt and not be able to find a job. Hopefully the economy will be improving by the time I'm out, or at least things are so out of control that collecting my debt will not even be an issue
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Redskullvw
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9 years calendar time- 1986 -1995. But in terms of academic quarters 5.5 years with two majors and two minors.

My youngest brother just graduated, although 100% on schedual and taking full course loads, it takes 5 years in academic semesters now to graduate from UGA "on time". The fact that it indeed requires more than 5 years of coursework for most majors prompted the administration of UGA to officially drop Freshman, sophomore, junior, and senior designations. You are now referred to by year of academic attendance.

And to add insult to the fact it takes more than four years to get a degree at a four year school, when faced with a student who has taken longer than 5 years to graduate they are now call chronic students. Kinda pisses me off to know that there are a lot of students out there who have to work for their tuition. And sometimes, money is too tight to go to school for several quarters. If I had just been in the graduating class this year with my brother, and it had taken me as long as it did in reality to graduate, I would have been classified as a ninth year chronic student.

What an insult. But just about any decent major university now has academic course loads that force a student to double up hours, take Summer classes, or exempt by challenge coursework in order to get out in 4.

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Redskullvw
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Ricky

I'd beg to differ with you on college being an extended adolescence. If Mommy & Daddy are paying for everything and providing the pizza money then sure, what you say seems plausible. But even 20 years ago I knew of almost no one who was in that boat. Most people had a job. Most were paying their own way. And most of them had responsibilities at a workplace and also classroom responsibilities. They certainly weren't being sheilded from the real world. And for that matter since they were in the workforce, I'd have a hard time agreeing that they were somehow being removed from competition with the general adult population.

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RickyB
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"Most people had a job. Most were paying their own way. And most of them had responsibilities at a workplace and also classroom responsibilities. They certainly weren't being sheilded from the real world."

I think you fail to get my meaning. The real world is being shielded from them. [Smile] Plus, the stress of holding down a student job is nothing like a real job, a career, let alone a family. College is more like real life than HS, but not quite.

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Clark
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I took 5 years to graduate. The first two years were spent in chemistry before I switched to physics. (I hate o-chem.) My last semester I only had 1 class to graduate. If I had switched off of chemistry even one semester earlier, I would likely have finished in 4 years still.

Aside from a few programs that are really tough (Chemical Engineering) I don't see why people can't finish degrees in 4 years. The main reasons I saw for people needing more than 4 years to get a degree are:

- failing classes because they were too busy having fun to attend class
- not declaring a major until after completing 3 or 4 semesters
- switch majors 3 or 4 semesters in
- taking time off to work, have kids, etc.

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RickyB
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A bright kid on most majors should be able to complete the degree in 3-3.5 years. It's not the end of the world by any means if not, but it's eminently possible.
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hobsen
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The problem with going to a trade school and making a lot of money as a plumber is that your children will most likely do the same thing. The really promising college students I know right now are children of teachers, librarians, doctors, clergymen, accountants and so forth, and not a one of them is the child of a plumber or anything like that even if plumbers make more money. (Oops, I just thought of a counter example, in a girl with a fantastic talent for languages who grew up in low income public housing in New York City.) But by and large plumbers tend to become more and more like other plumbers, and that is not a class which provides leaders to this nation. Looking for the money first, rather than trying to learn as much as you can about the world around you, may be fine for an individual but it usually ends as a disaster for his family. Lottery winners seldom turn into community leaders either, and not even people who chance to inherit a lot of money, although the latter sometimes acquire a desire to make the most of themselves along with the cash.
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Redskullvw
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Ricky

I got the point that the non- college student worker market was being protected by having kids off in school for 4-5 years. My point was, this isn't really the case. Most students work for private employers at least part time. I see it every day in my college town. 30,000 students are undergrads and apparently according to the University nearly 80% of them are employed part time. And I have no problem even confirming that figure every day. Most of the service industry and clerical industry in this town is 100% student wage earners. Then you have construction and landscape crews run by students. Heck I know of only one business I frequent often that has no college student employees simply because it is a family business. Otherwise, if I am conducting business in my college town, I can pretty much be certain that most of a company's employees I come in contact with will also be part/full time students at one of the two colleges or one university that exists in my city.

I think 20 -30 years ago, maybe what you said was true. 18-22 year old high achievers were out of the general market. But the high cost of education has meant most 18-22 years old students in college now have to work even while in school. They are often working in the very fields they are trying to get degrees in. And often that degree is what they need to move out of the lower tiers of their profession. Fact is you have a lot of students making $10,000-$20,000 a year in income.

While I would agree that is a low wage, compared to some skilled workers who are already beyond or never entered secondary education, many people only make $20,000 a year and compete with students for jobs on an ongoing basis.

I really do think most students work. My brother just graduated, and even his frat brothers all seemed to have part time jobs. So if by most having part time jobs means they are somehow shielding the general workforce from impact is what you meant, maybe. Then again in many cases the students are fully enrolled in the local and regional economy, so I don't see much validity in claiming college is a pressure valve to delay people from entering the workforce for 4 + years.

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RickyB
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"My point was, this isn't really the case. Most students work for private employers at least part time."

Part time, mostly lower scale jobs, as gofers and underlings for the 22-23 year olds. Many, many of the jobs gotten by your average fresh college grad could easily be performed by an enterprising 18 year old. Those kind of jobs. Most aspiring teachers don't teach class while in college. They TA. Most aspiring BA grads don't hold the 9-5 jobs they get once they graduate. If you see no difference between the jobs people do in college and after college, I don't know how to further the discussion.

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Redskullvw
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Ricky

You se an artificial designation between "real" and "college" jobs. Unless you are working on campus for your room & board stipend, the reality is the distinction only exists in your head. People who have "college" jobs are as fully integrated into the economy as the guy who mops floors in the local steel factory. They may seem trivial/meaningless/demeaning enough to justify them as not being "real" jobs, but they are in fact, as real as any other job. They are indeed already in the market, and any perception of the general jobs market being shielded from the college student is a fiction.

An estimated 67% of all students are employed at least 25 hours a week as of 2000. In 1985 it was 50% according to the UPromise college program. It would seem that your perception is flawed. Most students are already in the job market even while they are in school. So as to your original claim that the students were being warehoused so as to not effect the non-student worker, I think the facts contra indicate your claim. Further, if you want to state that the jobs students do take while in school are discounted from your theory on the basis that they are lower scale jobs, then non-students who hold the same types of jobs should not be considered part of the general job market.

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RickyB
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(sigh) no, they are not as integrated. They deo not hold full time jobs in the fields where they wish to compete. They are not in competition with graduates of their programs for jobs. End of story.
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Redskullvw
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Ricky

Must you bend over backwards to insist that 67% of college students work 25 or more hours a week for private employers are not part of the economy, don't have real jobs, and are being warehoused to protect the general job market from 18-22 years olds?

They compete and take jobs from non-student workers all the time. Just because they don't take jobs that require MBA's, doesn't mean that they aren't effectively joining the workforce. So they aren't in their chosen field as full practitioners. So maybe they are even in a field they have no intention of staying in. The fact is 67% of them are employed and are working while in school. Meaning that the most that can be validated from your original statement is that of the number's of students in college, 33% of them offer no competition for jobs to the general job market as of the year 2000.

The fact that the rate is trending upwards at 1.2% a year means it is more like only 24% are warehoused, but I am trying to toss you a bone.

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RickyB
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Not what I said, but it doesn't matter. Consider yourself having won an argument.
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Redskullvw
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Thank you for admitting that your original statement, "The idea behind the four year college is to extend adolescence, extend the period of time in which young people are removed from direct competition with the general adult population." was incorrect.
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RickyB
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I didn't. I merely wearied with your obtuseness. But you are most welcome.
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